This weekend marked Boston Children’s Hospital’s first official collaboration with MIT’s H@cking Medicine team to bring us Hacking Pediatrics Hackathon! The event brings together seriously skilled engineers, clinicians and serial entrepreneurs for a weekend of brainstorming and prototyping to help find solutions for some of the biggest problems in pediatrics. The organizers received over 200 hacker applications for the event, but were only able to select about 120 of the top innovators to participate. The brains behind Hacking Pediatrics Hackathon were full of energy and excitement, and did a fabulous job of organizing the event.
Day 1 kicked off with some amazing inspirational talks! First, we heard from Lauren, a high schooler with cystic fibrosis who has spent several weeks each year of her life at Boston Children’s. During her extended stays at the hospital, she missed spending time with her pets at home, and pitched the idea of a pet-friendly floor of the hospital where small animals would be welcome to visit along with friends and family. Another area Lauren urged needs improvement is discharge and admissions, as this process is very time-consuming and frustrating. Thanks Lauren, for some great ideas on how to improve patient quality of life!
Next, Dr. Bob Nguyen, a urologist at Boston Children’s, took the stand to tell us a heartbreaking story of a young patient who couldn’t remember to go to bathroom frequently enough. He has been working on a robotics solution to help remind patients to comply with medical recommendations at home. Check out my interview with Nitin Gujral, a team member working with Dr. Nguyen, to learn more about their robotic solution below.
The final speaker was Aman Bhandari, the Director of Health IT & Data Partnerships, Business Development and Strategy at Merck. Aman formerly served as an advisor at the White House for health innovation policy. In recounting several lessons he has learned from his career in the US government, he encouraged hackers to ‘find their tribe’ to maximize impact on an area sorely in need of innovation.
After the amazing opening speakers, the ideas pitches began! Pain points and ideas for innovation in pediatrics were delivered at lightening speed in 1 minute intervals. Over 30 parents, researchers, friends of clinicians and nurses took the stand to identify areas they wanted to attack. Following the idea pitches, hackers circulated among the ideas and formed teams with unique skills to solve some of the most compelling and approachable problems.
As teams were forming I had a chance to chat with some of the idea pitchers and presenters.
Evan Smith, MD, has participated in hackathons before, but today pitched an idea to help kids get up and move around after surgery by making each activity a game. Dr. Smith has lots of experience making apps himself, but was really excited to get to meet other innovators and hear about what they were doing at the Hackathon.
Vicki Hamel, BSN, CPN, is a nurse at Boston Children’s in the allergy and immunology program. She has observed a problem with patients with severe allergies not knowing when to use their epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) during an allergic reaction as the stress often causes them to forget what they have been taught by their doctor.
Nitin Gujral is a software architect at Boston Children’s working with Dr. Bob Nguyen on the NAO robot for reminding pediatric patients to stick to their medical routines on a day-to-day basis. What an interesting approach to help bring healthcare into the lives of children!
I also chatted with Suhail Ahmad, who pitched an idea to incorporate art into the hospital environment. As a quantitative research associate at Athenahealth, Suhail believes that user experience is what is missing from healthcare today.
Shannon is an Associate Consultant at DRG Consulting, where she helps clients in the life sciences approach strategic problems. As a new-comer to Boston, she's very excited about all of the medical innovation happening in her neighborhood, and loves learning about the people and resources that make it so vibrant. Shannon also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering where she studied the biomechanics of bone regeneration. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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