Over the weekend, I finally saw what a hackathon is all about. I observed the MaRS HackingHealth hackathon in Toronto on Saturday and watched in the full glory programmers and health professionals come up with inventive solutions to the inefficiencies of the health care system. It was a well organized event where participants used Sparkboard application to connect and share their ideas. Over 47 ideas were chosen and teams formed by sharing their interests and skills through Sparkboard. Teams spread throughout the beautiful MaRS building hacking away at their applications all weekend long. I was told many of the teams worked through the night, but since it was a health hackathon, they encouraged the participants to grab a few hours of shut eye. They also made sure plenty of healthy snacks were available. I didn’t see any red bull, snickers or skittles unfortunately. It was a great atmosphere and everyone I met seemed really excited and engaged in the problems they were trying to solve. Some notable ideas from Sparkboard were TouchFree, Quality Improvements, and Glove Sensor.
TouchFree is a medical image visualization application controlled by a touch-free user input device, allowing surgeons to manipulate 2D and 3D medical image data inside of the operating room without the risk of contaminating their hands.
Quality Improvements: Data collection for bedside quality improvement projects is still done with clipboard and pen because the data collection tools for tablets are not shareable, easily modified or easy to use. Help us build an app that nurses at the point of care can use and share to evaluate the quality of their care.
Glove Sensor: Our Exo-glove, a wearable sensor device for the hands, will allow individuals to interact with computers faster and more conveniently. It will also result in fewer computer work-related ailments, thus lowering the healthcare cost. We also want to enable access to computers for people with mobility limitations.
I loved the concept of connecting industry professionals, in this case doctors and researchers, with programmers, designers and other technical professionals to overcome barriers to entry and come up with innovative ideas that actually solve real problems. This is the essence of innovation and entrepreneurship, great job MaRS!
Next year I definitely plan on being a participant, to me it seemed much more fun attempting to solve the problems than just being a boring observer.
Here’s a link to discover more about HackingHealth in Toronto.