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How the MIT Grand Hack and Post-Hack Nurture Healthcare Innovation


The team members of Overjet came out of a weekend hackathon with a dream to solve a problem plaguing dental offices across the nation. At the MIT Grand Hack, an annual healthcare hackathon hosted by MIT Hacking Medicine, they spent the weekend developing their idea to use artificial intelligence (AI) to aid dentists in diagnosing and preventing oral disease and to create a platform that consolidates patient dental records.

While the team’s passion for the idea has compelled them to continue working on the product, they still face a challenge that many teams emerging from hackathons face: how to prove that the product created over 48 hours can have an impact in healthcare.

To recognize teams like Overjet for their continuing work on developing their product, MIT Hacking Medicine invited six previous Grand Hack teams and members of the Boston medical and healthcare community to present at the MIT Hacking Medicine Post-Hack Showcase last month at District Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. The aim of the event was to highlight teams that have done well since their formation at the MIT Grand Hack and connect them to a group of people who could help take their ideas and companies to the next level.

For Overjet, the Post-Hack event yielded a $2,500 prize meant to build upon the team’s success thus far.

health it,dental hack,overjetIn the time since the first Grand Hack, held in 2011, more than 50 companies have been founded and raised more than $200 million in funding.

“The most important thing is that these teams have had impact on real patients and real clinical trials,” said Liam Loscalzo, co-director of MIT Hacking Medicine, as he welcomed guests to the event.

Over the course of the evening, guests heard about the progress of six teams formed from Grand Hacks. Overjet, for instance, developed an AI platform that is working to improve diagnosis, prevention and treatment of oral diseases. CanAIry, from the MIT New York City Grand Hack 2018, leverages a smart home device to help screen for respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Hey, Charlie, from 2016, built an app that uses behavioral nudging to aid in recovery from addiction. Wellist, of 2013, is a platform that connects families to support systems to improve their health outcomes. Podimetrics, from 2011, developed an early warning system for diabetic foot ulcers. And finally, Arsenal Health, a 2014 team formerly known as Smart Scheduling, created a service to help physician practices predict cancellations and no-shows to increase appointment bookings.

The teams commented on their journeys, showcasing the diversity of paths of startups in the healthcare space.

Soon after its hackathon, Wellist had to live up to the demands of its first client, Massachusetts General Hospital. Podimetrics attended a pitch competition just two weeks after the hackathon, winning fan favorite and gaining the funds needed to start developing a prototype. Hey, Charlie team members discussed ways they could prove to professionals and families that their application could help create a support system for recovery, but they warned against getting caught up in trying to prove their viability as a company all at once. Arsenal Health, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of networking using connections gained from Grand Hack and constantly working to find potential customers or future members of the team. CanAIry shared its struggles with collecting clinically relevant data to train its algorithm, having to scan through hours of YouTube videos about whooping cough to extract audio for analysis.

And Overjet showed how the diversity of its team members has allowed them to develop a prototype that will enter dental practices this month, just under a year since the team formed at the Grand Hack.

All teams attributed their success to the diversity of the Grand Hack, allowing them to create a well-rounded team to perfect their ideas. This feeling extended to the Post-Hack event as well.

Deepak Ramaswamy, one of the members of Overjet, said the event was unique because, “we will be able to meet up with dentists, stakeholders and potential investors to make the connections we need to take our next steps.”

For Post-Hack and in past Grand Hacks, co-director Kriti Subramanyam said she has been “constantly been impressed by how interconnected our network is.” The community formed by these events allows the new teams coming out of each Grand Hack to immediately be introduced to a group of people from all different walks of life who can provide them with valuable mentoring and advice.

In addition to the Post-Hack, MIT Hacking Medicine aims to help teams at any stage that want to continue their ventures and build connections needed to make their healthcare innovation a reality.

As the presentations concluded and members of the teams began to mingle with the members of the Boston healthcare community, co-director Freddy Nguyen remarked, “We are not just looking to merge technology and healthcare, but rather, we want to continue to build this hacking ecosystem around the world for continuous innovation.”

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