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The MedTech Boston Guide to Planning a Healthcare Hackathon

The Future of Hackathons

Healthy Code-a-thon participants work at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Photo by Ben Sisto.

Healthy Code-a-thon participants work at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Photo by Ben Sisto.

Hackathons are now established as an important component of Boston’s medical technology scene. Looking forward, what can we expect?

Future hackathons will likely be more specific, MIT Hacking Medicines’s Lina Colucci says, with each likely centering on one specific medical field or issue. “Hackathons are moving toward more specific themes,” says Colucci. “For example, organizers will think, ‘Can we all come together and think about how wearables can improve cardiovascular health?’” However, as MIT Hacking Medicine notes in their Healthcare Hackathon Handbook, not setting a theme can still work if the event is more focused on spreading the idea of hackathons in healthcare.  Although there will always be broader hackathons, many of the organizers we talked to agreed ihealthcare hackathons are moving towards more specific focuses.

Many hackathon organizers also admit to having trouble recruiting clinicians, so there will likely be many efforts made in the future to increase the number of practicing physicians in attendence. “I think we get a lot of engineers and entrepreneurs,” says Melissa Spinks of the Brigham Innovation Hub. “I’d like to see more clinicians at the table.”

So how do you get more clinicians at a hackathon? One way is to better accommodate their schedules. “The biggest problem that I’ve seen is engaging clinicians in the long time commitment,” says Dr. Jennifer Joe. “I’d be interested in seeing models of a hackathon that allow for greater physician engagement. Medstro is experimenting with building a team and idea online a few months before the live event.”

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Brendan Pease

Brendan Pease

    Brendan Pease was MedTech Boston's first ever editorial and events intern. He is now a junior at Harvard University where he studies Molecular and Cellular Biology. He’s also the Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Harvard Science Review. Previously, he worked as a Market Intelligence intern at athenahealth and as a research assistant in the Goldberg Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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    1. Laura Henze Russell says:

      This was such a great event that I registered for @IBMWatson #Hackathon May 4-5 in NYC. Who else from GrandHack is going?

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