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MGH/Samsung Mobile Healthcare Hackathon: Meet the Winners


MedTech Boston Editor-in-chief Jennifer Joe mentored hackathon participants at the event. Photos by Jim Ryan.

Samsung has landed in Boston.

Samsung is making a big push into healthcare, putting their money and resources where their mouth is. Not only did they put up $6000 in prize money and give free Samsung Gear S watches to every participant in last weekend’s Mobile Healthcare Hackathon, but they’re also offering $500,000 in Healthcare Innovation Grants over the next five months. Yes, that’s not a typo, there are five zeroes after that five—that’s half a million dollars.

MedTech Boston’s editor-in-chief, Jennifer M. Joe, MD, was one of the many physician mentors who helped the competitors understand the limitations that physician workflow and HIPAA requirements place on clinical innovations.

Dr. David Ting, Chief Medical Information Officer of Massachusetts General Hospital felt positive about this event. “The energy, ideas, and camaraderie generated by this event is what being in healthcare technology in Boston is all about,” he said.

An overwhelming response.

The Samsung hackathon, which opened in the historic Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital, started with a talk from Samsung’s Senior Vice President of Technology Strategy, Peter Koo. He explained Samsung’s long-term healthcare strategy. Samsung’s current generation of wearables, including the super-cool Gear S watches, offer advanced sensors including ambient barometric pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen saturation in addition to the standard array of accelerometers. Koo showed a roadmap that adds galvanic skin response as a surrogate to measure stress levels.

A physician-friendly schedule.

The hackathon was co-sponsored by Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT H@cking Medicine, and unlike typical hackathons (which start on a Friday afternoon and run a solid 48 hours until Sunday afternoon), this hackathon had a physician-friendly schedule. The Friday evening session featured opening remarks from Samsung, MGH and MIT H@cking Medicine followed by a buffet dinner and “pain point pitch” session. After the pitches, teams were formed (there were over 20) and everyone went home for a good night’s sleep (or headed to the afterparty). The hack itself was a single day, from 8:30AM to 5:30PM (any resident would kill for such an easy shift), followed by the presentations, judging and awards.

“Many physicians find it impossible to participate in hackathons that run for the whole weekend due to their call schedules,” said Dr. Joe. “The one-day format ensured a healthy physician turnout.”


Participants group up and consider innovative ideas.

And the winners are…

Each team gave a traditional three minute presentation followed by two minutes of judges’ questions. When the dust settled, the winners were:

  • 1st PrizeEther – “We are building a wearable technology-based solution to enable anesthesiologists to provide real-time updates to the central OR manager. The solution will result in cost-savings that arise from systemic delays and cost of keeping an OR idle and a patient waiting.”
  • 2nd PrizeClean – “Over 1.7 million Americans acquire an infection when in the hospital. The solution for this is for Health Care Workers (HCW) (such as doctors, nurses etc) to wash their hands. However, compliance rates are under 50% of the times when hands should be washed. Clean uses wearable technology to monitor hand washing compliance.”
  • 3rd PrizeMigraine Trackz – “We are creating an app that tracks migraines and their triggers. Samsung’s wearables can track heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, quality of sleep and even barometric pressure. They will soon sense galvanic skin response to measure stress levels. We can combine this with other information on weather and medications to discover the triggers unique to each patient.”
  • Samsung Favorite AwardFitFriends – “FitFriends is a wrist based avatar that encourages children to eat healthy and exercise!”
  • MGH Favorite AwardCADI – “Currently access to the EMR is based upon fixed computer systems with cumbersome interfaces. CADI allows us to access clinically relevant data at the point of care through a natural language voice interface, improving efficacy and safety of healthcare provision.”
  • Crowd Favorite AwardEther –see above.

Did we change the world?

Sung Han of Campbell Alliance noted that this hackathon “truly created a construct of merging top leading wearable technology with healthcare. Due to limited availability of time, no ‘game changing’ solution was proposed, but I hope with continuous support a truly meaningful, sustainable and differentiated solution will be created in the near future.”

And this, of course, is the point of hackathons. It’s extremely rare for any hackathon idea to be productized, let alone to become successful. That’s not what hackathons are for. The point of a hackathon is to bring together bright, innovative people with diverse backgrounds and domain expertise and to give free reign to their imaginations and creativity, hopefully creating partnerships that lead to more permanent collaborations. On this front, the MGH/Samsung Mobile Healtcare Hackathon was an overwhelming success.

James Ryan

    Jim Ryan has spent the past 20 years building global markets for US-based telecommunications and enterprise technology companies. Mr. Ryan exited five startups (2 IPOs, 2 acquisitions, 1 Chapter 11) and now uses his expertise as one of the three founding partners of Farpoint Ventures helping startups from the US quickly build global sales channels and bring in revenues from overseas markets. Mr. Ryan has closed over $1B in export business for startups.Mr. Ryan holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a Master's degree from Osaka University. He is a native speaker of Japanese, and is conversational in Mandarin Chinese and French.In between meetings, he has climbed Mt. Rainier three times, finished the Boston Marathon and Cape Cod Marathon, climbed Mt. Washington in all four seasons and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon 10 times. He holds a Private Pilot license and enjoys flying his Cessna 172 around New England and beyond.

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