Over the course of 36 hours, 21 teams of strangers gathered at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge last weekend to develop innovative solutions to challenges within pediatric healthcare. Clinicians, MBAs, entrepreneurs, software developers, and patients drew up plans, produced prototypes, and pitched their final solutions with the hopes of taking home a top prize at Hacking Pediatrics. Ultimately, team ReadySetGo would emerge victorious for their idea, an application designed to help parents and caregivers effectively prepare to take their kids home from the hospital.
Hacking Pediatrics, a hackathon supported by Boston Children’s Hospital and MIT’s H@cking Medicine, drew a mix of motivated people who hoped to turn ideas into sustainable plans for improving “pain points,” or issues within pediatric healthcare. After meeting on Friday, October 17, 2014, participants formed teams and hacked problems ranging from improving the effectiveness of inhalers to offering clinicians a database for genetic data. Thirty-six hours later, the teams pitched their final ideas to a panel of five judges.
Team ReadySetGo’s idea – increasing parent readiness and lowering readmissions – came from a parent. “I love how our app—our solution was patient-focused and it was kicked off by a parent standing up and presenting the problem,” said team member Mary Beth Schoening, who works in business strategy.
That parent was Tamara Rich, who experienced between 50-70 hospital discharges when her son was sick. “Ten percent of the time, I didn’t feel safe at home, I didn’t have what I needed when I walked out. It’s like walking off a cliff or a black hole, and you panic and you end up back,” she said.
“Parent readiness is the number one predictor of successful transitions home,” said Kevin Blaine, the team-anointed spokesperson and a project manager at Boston Children’s Hospital. He explained that there are nine standards clinicians need to follow for every kid. “But parents are the center of this entire process, so we had to bring something to translate that work for them.”
The result was an application that could walk a parent through everything that would happen after a child was admitted to the hospital. “[Kevin]brought the idea of taking 9 or 8 standards of discharge and turning that, in some way, into an interactive feature,” said team member Lindsey Kempton, who works for athenahealth. To alleviate parental panic, the ReadySetGo app presents a timeline for parents based on the idea that discharge starts at admission, and that parents should know what will happen at every checkpoint along the way. Blaine said these standards of discharge were the brainchild of Jay Berry, an attending physician at BCH and a complex care service expert.
The ReadySetGo app allows parents to assess their readiness along eight phases of a child’s stay in the hospital, from admission to discharge. For every section, there is a question and answer module, with suggested questions parents can ask that are sent directly to the clinician responsible for that issue. This means that rather than face static guidelines during a hospital visit, parents and guardians can interact with the process and leave the hospital without surprises. The team said they wanted the app to reduce variation and bring standardization, while remaining compliant with standards and helping parents feel ready to go.
Team ReadySetGo included Gordon Massey, a healthcare administrator at Boston Children’s; Jason Costello, a healthcare architect; and Nitin Gujral, the principal software architect at Chidren’s. Along with Blaine, Kempton, Rich, and Schoening, they bounced ideas off one another to figure out how to guide parents through the hospital discharge process.
“Really, what made us an effective team was there was expertise professionally, but there was expertise and decisions from the get go about who was going to be doing what, and we had check-ins where everybody was working together,” Blaine said. They agreed that the skills each person had, whether in business, development or management, complemented each other, which showed as the team rehashed the weekend after winning the $3,000 top prize.
“The synergy was powerful, the listening was terrific. I really think that an advantage in moving this forward is the pressure of the shortened time, where all the expertise has got to gel together and so, it’s just so exciting that it culminated in this,” said Gordon Massey.
Interestingly, Jason Castillo said the members of team ReadySetGo were the left overs after the ideas pitch. “There were so many other teams that were already formed, and we were cast into this room,” he said.
“In the end, it’s only 36 hours but I saw people grow, it was so exciting. You wonder if one of these pieces of talent was missing, would you have pulled off a grand prize,” said Massey.
Jayne Rogers, the Nursing Director for the Inpatient Medicine program at Boston Children’s Hospital and one of the judges for Hacking Pediatrics, said the panel gravitated towards ReadySetGo immediately. “What we kept coming back to was the impact that this will have is just enormous,” Rogers said.
Dr. Michael Docktor, one of the Hacking Pediatrics organizers, said the hackathon was launched with the hope that teams would achieve such levels of synergy and potential impact, as ReadySetGo did. “The fact that this community got together and learned to think a little bit differently,” Docktor said. “We want to have the infrastructure to help support teams after.”
With assorted partnerships and sponsorships, a handful of teams, including the top three finishers, walked away from the hackathon with prize money, consultations, and other resources.
Here are the award winners:
1st: ReadySetGo – An application to help parents and caregivers prepare for hospital discharge
2nd: Genetiscripts – A database that pulls available genetic data on patients for clinicians to consult when prescribing drugs
3rd: BreatheSMART – An inhaler cap/mobile app that tracks data including usage and airflow, assists children use inhalers more effectively
Dana Hatic is a web journalist at WHDH-TV. She received an MS in Journalism from Boston University and a BS in political science and journalism from the University of Miami. She is also involved with the Team Fox Young Professionals of Boston.
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