Medical Hackathons Re-Invent Patient Experience

Medical Hackathons Re-Invent Patient Experience

If there is one takeaway from our healthcare report from earlier this year, it is that a majority of hospitals – even the biggest names in healthcare – struggle to be patient-centric online. Websites generally lack in functionality as well as visibility in search engines, and as a result, patients’ online needs are neglected.

As a recent article from Slate points out, it is ironic that hospitals are failing to improve patient outcomes, considering how motivated the industry is to innovate with robotic surgeries and pill-mounted cameras. The tech deficiency in how patients can seek and manage care is prevalent: it is 2014, and only one in five hospitals from our report offered pre-registration online. You can make a restaurant reservation online, but not schedule a doctor appointment.

So we have to admire the organizations that take huge strides toward tech innovation. The most recent example that piqued our interest is the development of medical hackathons.

These events, typically framed as a competition, challenge participants to leverage new technologies to develop more efficient ways of providing care. In this post, we cover three different hackathons from three innovative organizations.

Why We Love This Trend

Hackathons require the participation of developers and designers in any field. People who are patients themselves are able to bring their ideas for better care into fruition.

All in all, everyone benefits: Winners can receive cash prizes and organizations receive innovative new ways to reduce readmission rates and ultimately improve the patient experience.

So let’s explore a few of the organizations that are attracting brilliant people to congregate and solve problems.

Example 1: Healthcare’s Grand [email protected]

This event by MIT Hacking Medicine and The Kauffman Foundation allows participants to choose from multiple tracks, including: Diabetes, Global Health Technology, Telehealth & Mobile, Global Genes Rare Disease, and Hospital IT.

Healthcare’s Grand [email protected] occurred this past March, welcoming 400 engineers, doctors, scientists, and designers to the MIT Lab for a bustling weekend of innovation.

While details of the hackathon’s success are not widely available, MIT recently hosted a Post-Hack Pitchfest, which gave teams the opportunity to make progress on their ideas and business by pitching to healthcare leaders, investors, and customers.

Example 2: Shark Tank

Riding on the success of the popular ABC show, Shark Tank, this medical hackathon of the same name by Brigham and Women’s Hospital challenged 10 local startups to pitch ideas or products relating to two areas:

  1. Patient & family experience in the inpatient setting
  2. Patient engagement in the outpatient setting

The results of Shark Tank delivered impressive, yet simplistic, possible solutions to common struggles across healthcare organizations. VerbalCare, for example, is a product that uses cloud technology to improve and streamline communication between a patient and care team. Healo is a mobile app that helps clinicians monitor the progress of a patient’s post-operative wound.

Example 3: Innovate NYP

The third example of a medical hackathon was focused on an existing online portal for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s online portal, myNYP, which helps patients track health records and schedule appointments. The goal of Innovate NYP was to “improve the patient and health care experience.”

Individuals or teams of up to eight participants were asked to submit projects that were judged on the following criteria:

  • Ease of use
  • Design – does it reflect the NYP brand?
  • Is there a benefit to patients?
  • Is the idea/technology creative and innovative to NYP
  • Overall quality of the product


Hosting a hackathon is by no means the end-all solution to a hospital’s struggles. Inception of an idea or product is one thing. Proper implementation of the technology into an organization’s operations is a tall order, and the results may not even be in line with expectations. Still, we applaud these organizations for not only hosting hackathons, but also tailoring the events – by leveraging local talent, narrowing the focus to an online portal, and offering multiple tracks.

For hospitals to continue improving, they need to invest as much effort in on-site functionality as much as they invest in the advancement of medicine. The hosptials that find ways to deliver care beyond the walls of a hospital will ultimately improve patient outcomes.

Learn more about the need for patient-centric hosptials – download our report