This past weekend, The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) hosted a Global Cancer Innovation Hackathon at Massaschusetts General Hospital. Over a period of 48-hours, clinicians, engineers and entrepreneurs collaborated to develop affordable medical technology solutions to address cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment in low and middle-income countries.
On Sunday afternoon more than 20 teams presented problem statements, prototypes, and business plans before a panel of judges. The winning team, Fever Finder, developed a simple and cost effective way for nurses in understaffed pediatric oncology wards to easily monitor patients for fevers, a common symptom of sepsis.
The device, which the team reports can be manufactured in bulk for about $4 each, consists of a battery, temperature sensor and control board. When the patient exhibits a fever over 100.4 °F, it sends a text alerting the nurse on staff that a patient is in need of attention.
The problem of delayed fever detection in understaffed, low resource oncology wards, presented earlier in the weekend by MGH pediatrician Kevin Schwartz, attracted the attention of Stanford undergraduates Jason Ku Wang and Shivaal Roy who quickly put their hardware skills to work. “Jason and I came in wanting to do a hardware hack,” Roy explained. “When we heard the problem that Dr. Schwartz presented we immediately saw that we could use Arduino boards to hack together a solution.”
Patient advocate Joyce Graff, who lost her husband to systemic sepsis in 1977, was also eager to address the problem. “I was drawn to the question of sepsis because whatever we do to help third world countries deal with pediatric sepsis is potentially transferable to a much broader community of need all over the world,” she said.
The multi-disciplinary, international team that assembled also included Nick Sherman, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s hospital, biotech scientist Julie Erickson, entrepreneur William Hu, Cornell medical and engineering student Mitali Kini, bioengineer Anya Burkart, and medical student Asma Zitouni.
The type of multidisciplinary collaboration demonstrated by the Fever Finder team is exactly what makes hackathons like this successful, according to Kristian Olson, the Medical Director at CAMTech. “What we’re doing is coming together across continents and disciplines to think about problems that have vexed people for a long time in an entirely new way,” he explained. “People that never usually work together get out of their silos in such a unique fashion that new solutions are achieved.”
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