Fall Code-a-thon Kicks Off!

Health 2.0’s code-a-thon kicked off Saturday with about 70 developers, designers, information experts, clinicians and patients working together marathon-style to build new health applications and tools. This event continues Health 2.0’s tradition of hosting of online and live developer challenges throughout the year. Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya welcomed the participants, some of them to their first code-a-thon ever, and told them what’s at stake: $10,000 in prize money and a presentation slot in this week’s fall conference. Subaiya told them they’d be judged in three main categories — creativity, usability and potential for impact.

Joris Vandam from Novartis also took part in the introduction, presenting a challenge around solutions that will help patients to effectively manage and take prescribed medications. Some developers decided to tackle this, and they’ll be qualified to receive the extra $3,000 prize Novartis is offering for the best solution.

Contestants weren’t limited to the proposed challenges, and some of them came with ideas of their own, which they pitched one by one at the microphone. A brainstorming session ensued during which participants stood up, dispersed, mingled and convened around tables, where they fueled up on food and coffee while trading ideas. The energy steadily carried on throughout the afternoon, as teams hunkered down with purpose once they had their visions roughly sketched. Teamwork styles varied from table to table. Some group members developed tunnel vision as they peered into their computer screens and worked at their keyboards. Others chatted away while simultaneously banging on their laptops. Teams divvied up the work to ensure it was manageable and to assign it to those with certain skill sets. For example, one person worked on the front end of the program, another on the back end and another developed the product’s image.

Different from past one-day challenges, innovators have the weekend to finish their projects, so they’ll have to pace themselves. One way to do this was to take a break from coding to drop in on the Health 2.0 101 and Tech Talks that continued through the afternoon. Holt started the sessions off and was followed by HIT experts including Lew Altman, who talked about Health Information Exchanges, Mat Trudel of Massive Health and Dr. Jan Gurley.

Some developers were contest veterans like one winner from Health 2.0’s DC code-a-thon earlier this year. Others were brand new and showed up thinking they’d see what these challenges were all about. Paul Resnick, a professor of information at the University of Michigan came to San Francisco for the Health 2.0 Conference, but he flew in a day early to take part in this event. “Things are going well! We have an idea. It’s good for the stage,” he said, talking about the program his group was working on. Resnick teamed up with Alex Khomenko and Eric Park that morning after all three had just met for the first time.

The Tim Gunn of health code-a-thons, Fred Trotter, walked around from table to table, providing feedback and words of encouragement for contestants. Trotter, a leading consultant and advocate for Free and Open Source Health Software, will be a judge during Sunday’s presentations. In the first day, about nine teams started their work on a variety of projects. Here’s a summary of just some of the ideas they were putting in motion:

  • A green button approach that allows patients to share data safely and anonymously, especially data about chronic illnesses that can add to the public knowledge base
  • A Netflix approach to patient monitoring where certain medical devices are delivered and returned through the mail, then sterilized and sent to new patients
  • A prescription medication reminder application that employs a social component; patients are reminded to take their medication by entering into pacts with their friends.
  • An application that allows patients to improve their family’s involvement in their health by enabling them to communicate their vital information with their loved ones as well as doctors
  • A droid drug affordability app
  • A hospital task manager that aims to improve workflow and encourages hospital staff input from all levels of the hierarchy via a digital communication space
  • A Chatroulette take on the need for support groups for just-in-time intervention. Instead of reaching for the bottle, someone can go online to talk to others.

Contestants broke away from their keyboards at 8 p.m. and, as group, headed to a nearby bar to throw back a drink or two to ease the pain of their carpal tunnel. But they’ll be back Sunday — same place, earlier time since they’ll be up against a 3 p.m. deadline. Stay tuned! We’ll follow up here to reveal the first, second and third place winners, which will be announced shortly after their presentations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *