Jugaad-a-thon: India’s Largest Healthcare Hackathon

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A Jugaad-a-thon participant works long hours with his team to find solutions to India’s largest healthcare problems. All photos provided by Glocal.

Hackathons are lucrative events for entrepreneurs because they connect innovators with resources, capital, and mentors; they take cool ideas from inception to reality. But so far, hackathons have been a mostly American trend – which is why Jugaad-a-thon, a July 17-20, 2014 hackathon in Bangalore, India, was in a league all it’s own.

Jugaad-a-thon, organized by CAMTech, MIT Hacking Medicine and Glocal Healthcare, stands for “totum maior summa partum”: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The tag line? “We’re not here to win money; we are here to solve problems.” The event lived up to its name by bringing together over 200 participants, 70 mentors and 30 clinicians for a weekend of healthcare innovation.

During the hackathon, participants had the opportunity to discuss their interests and organically form teams with mentor guidance. Over the course of 48 hours, each team of clinicians, engineers and designers worked to turn innovative ideas for improving reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health into realistic prototypes. At the end of the weekend, the main cash prize was awarded to BabySteps, an integrated mobile app for early diagnosis of developmental delays in children across India. PEL-Dia received grants for their solutions for Cephalo Pelvic Disproportion, and Pregmatic won for its invention: a wearable device that guides pregnant women in resource-constrained settings.

The main cash prize of the weekend was awarded to team BabySteps.

The main cash prize of the weekend was awarded to team BabySteps.

“The innovative thinking in this hackathon surpassed any expectation. Over these 48 hours, we saw clinical challenges drive innovative ideas, which then spawned new life-saving technologies for women and children in India. The Jugaad-a-thon was open innovation at its best,” said Elizabeth Bailey, Director of the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies, or CAMTech.

CAMTech is part of the Center for Global Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, and it sponsors programs that accelerate medical technology innovation to improve global health crises. CAMTech has sponsored many global hackathons this year – they’re one of the first companies to take these events to developing countries – and they recently launched the CAMTech India program in partnership with Glocal Healthcare, a company that runs a chain of rural hospitals in India.

“As a healthcare provider to the medically underserved in India, hack-a-thons help us become a part of a unique community of innovators who share our vision of making healthcare accessible to all,” said Soura Bhattacharyya, Chief Medtech at Glocal Healthcare. “For Glocal, technology is meaningful when it scales to widespread adoption and impact, and reduces the cost of delivery for both consumers and providers of care. With CAMTech’s focus on public health impact and viable business models, we eagerly anticipate that the development of meaningful, user-centered technologies will be significantly accelerated.”

Jugaad-a-thon was preceded by a clinician summit that brought together community health workers, Ob-Gyns, government workers and industry representatives. The group members discussed growing concerns about effective vaccine delivery methods to rural areas, early leprosy detection, technology needs, growth metrics for children, and postpartum hemorrhage (the largest contributor to maternal mortality in India).

What happens at hackathons often stays at hackathons because of the money, energy and time required to actually launch a business. To turn the weekend’s innovative ideas into realities, the CAMTech India program will continue to guide the winning teams for the next two years. A Technology Incubator is also planned for December so Jugaad-a-thon participants can meet again to move their ideas forward.

Shreya Iyer

Shreya Iyer

    Shreya specializes in health communications and is a copywriter for an advertising agency. She was previously at Bayer Healthcare, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

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