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The Hackers Have Spoken: Healthcare Needs More Patient-Centered Solutions

by Vivek Bhatia, Entrepreneur and Partner, AustinHealthTech

A slew of interesting factors are converging together in healthcare that are putting the patient firmly in the center of the care continuum. This is a big change for provider organizations used to being in that center.

Here at AustinHealthTech, however, we are excited by the dawning of the patient-centered era and nowhere was that more evident than last month during athenahealth’s inaugural Austin More Disruption Please (MDP) hackathon, supported by our local group AustinHealthTech, along with Seton Healthcare and SXSW. The hackathon featured more than 120 hackers from all backgrounds – some traveled from as far as California and Maine to participate in the multi-day event. The goal: change the status quo in health care.

At the Austin MDP hackathon changing the status quo meant placing a strong focus on patient-centered health IT solutions – you see a handful here and there at hackathons but the focus was more evident and targeted at this event. Although Austin has been a traditionally B-2-B startup scene, the vast majority of the ideas surfaced during the hack were patient-centric. Of the 21 teams, 16 placed the patient as either the primary user or direct beneficiary of the solution, and more specifically, providing better communication, access and transparency to patients.

21 teams and 24 hours later

Each organically assembled group quickly plunged head-first into the challenge of solving the industry’s most pressing problems. The crafty, independent spirit of Austin was apparent from the start as pitch ideas ran the gamut:  From practicing physicians thinking up workflow improvements to registered clinicians focused on the challenges with mental health care in the U.S. to college students thinking hard about possible uses for machine learning.

A few highlights from the teams:

Operation: Not a Problem

Goal: Aggregate patient history into easy-to-engage appointment reminders so doctors can treat the entire patient, not just the presenting condition. Their solution was termed Appointment Intelligence, or AI, demoing the use of the athenahealth API for patient charts and introducing the possibility of automating the approach using Infor Cloverleaf, an integration platform, to aggregate the data.

UnaliWear, the Kanega watch

Goal: Deliver software tied to the athenahealthAPI to complement the UnaliWear hardware (Smart watch for seniors). Their solution delivered ability to provide medication reminders and appointment alerts to the patient via the watch.

The Stigmatics

Goal: Recognizing that grieving is a process and it needs to be addressed early in the primary care cycle. Their solution focused on reducing/eliminating the stigma associated with the grieving process and empowering primary care givers to recognize, diagnose, and begin treatment.

PrickFlix

Goal: Deliver Netflix for Blood Tests. Using the novel blood collection kit from Austin startup Spot On Sciences, their solution focused on physical collection of specimens (using a drone) and the tracking of them through the value chain to the lab (using QR codes and an app).

The winners
  • 1st Place: The Stigmatics: Reducing the stigma of mental health needs in primary care
  • 2nd Place: Team GAS: Predicting falls before they happen
  • 3rd Place: Prick Flix: Using drones to deliver blood sample kits in rural areas

Patient-oriented solutions are an untapped oil well in health care

Hackathons are always a distinct bell jar of the social sciences: sociology, psychology, and economics. The catalyzing effects of mixing diversity of passion and experience with programming talent typically results in unique trends, to even the most casual of observers. And the Austin health tech scene was no exception.

Of the 120+ participants comprising the 21 teams that ultimately formed, less than 25% of them came from traditional health or health IT backgrounds. There is no doubt on anyone’s mind that we will see a tremendous shift in this high engagement/low experience balance as events such as this propel the community forward.

This is an amazing change. We need more smart people from outside of health care working to build solutions to thorny problems and thinking first and foremost how to solve problems from a patient perspective.

Kyle Cox, Partner at AustinHealthTech, contributed to this post.

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