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 H@ckfest

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 H@ckfest 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


Evolve Digital Labs Sets New Record for Client

Last month, we set a new record for the number of leads delivered through paid search for one of our clients, a national telecom provider. Paid search is a marketing channel that requires careful attention. Unlike traditional advertising mediums, which generally rely on impressions to validate the cost, paid search is able to monitor success based on a variety of key performance indicators (KPIs). With that said, it is impossible for accounts to perform at their full potential without receiving timely adjustments based on the KPI data.

As Director of Paid Search, many of my responsibilities are dedicated to ensuring success throughout the duration of paid search campaigns. I also strive to perpetually increase success as budgets increase, which is why many of the data is compared to the client’s performance from the previous year.

Data-based adjustments:

Messaging continues to evolve as content specificity improves, allowing for more targeted ad messaging to the search query and visitors’ desired results.

Market aggressiveness, both in positioning and budget allocation, is based upon DMA performance and opportunity. Opportunity is based upon the number of possible customers, serviceability within each location, and competition. Performance is based upon historical lead generation/customer acquisition vs. investment, i.e., Cost-Per-Acquisition.

Landing pages optimizations, which I speak to a bit below, was focused on segmenting services into individual pages, which highlight primary features while maintaining messaging on savings when bundling services. Additionally, we tested and optimized lead generation form placement, positioning and prominence of contact numbers, image sizing/placement, and language.

Account optimization:

Account optimization is a perpetual exercise. For this client, we constantly searched for additional positive terms. When targeted directly, they increased display rate while reducing the average cost per click (CPC). Negative keyword expansion affords the same benefit, increasing quality score and traffic quality, while preventing waste on unqualified queries.

Content and landing page optimization, which is also ongoing, allows for more targeted messaging to visitors’ specific needs. Creation of product-specific landing pages answers unmet needs, while increasing quality score and conversion rate.

Taking advantage of peak season:

The client has two peak seasons annually. The first is January-May, second being August-September. Using media investment in the most effective way is paramount; decreasing investment during non-peak months allows for increased investment during peak months. Learn more about this method, budget flighting, in our earlier post.

Breaking Down Lead Performance

Because paid search is driven by data, it can be easy to get lost in the numbers. Looking at the big picture is critical. For example, a campaign may deliver more leads than the previous month, but how does that affect the cost per lead? If a campaign’s spend is through the roof, it may not contribute to a higher ROI in the long run.

We monitored the campaign metrics to ensure the success was balanced across the board. This included:

  • Total spend
  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Spend
  • Cost per lead
  • Leads from calls
  • Web Leads

Results Show the Pay-off

Because paid search success builds day by day, we tracked our client’s daily progress to make necessary changes and ensure satisfactory campaign performance. By the end of the month, we were elated to see that despite the number of impressions (people who were exposed to the ad) was down, our client’s total number of leads was up 7.5% from the previous month, and it had increased 72% from April of the previous year. Finally, while the traffic to the website increased, the average cost per click actually decreased. This means Evolve Digital Labs was able to spend less money turning visitors into leads.

The results from last month were impressive as well when we compared them to the previous year. Our client experienced a 56.8% surge in leads, in addition to a 23.9% reduction in the cost of each lead. Not only did we work hard to deliver more leads to the client, we also were able to decrease the costs involved.


It is exciting to see the volume and quality of leads Evolve Digital Labs can deliver to a client year over year. As mentioned, success in paid search is largely reliant on careful adjustments to campaigns as KPIs are processed. Driving valuable customers to highly optimized pages is a feat in itself, but Evolve Digital Labs’ mission is to do so at the lowest cost possible. Contact us in the form below or give us a call to find out how your organization can tap into this profitable marketing channel.