Health hackathons gain momentum

17 April 2014 | Peter Jones, Industry Market Development Manager - Canada


It might have been a cold, dark evening in Toronto last November 8th, but the room I was in was lit up with the energy of innovation. I was listening to presentations from the young and energetic teams participating in Hacking Health Toronto.

It was exhilarating to witness this new, grassroots way of driving innovation in healthcare. These hackathons bring together clinicians with developers to come up with ideas for solving healthcare’s toughest challenges.

Developers listen to doctors and nurses who are on the frontlines of healthcare to understand the needs and challenges of clinicians and patients. Then they embark on an intense three days of working together to come up with realistic, human-centric ways to solve problems using today’s flexible technologies such as mobile devices and cloud services.

I’m thrilled to see the interest in Hacking Health grow. The Hacking Health Toronto event that I attended had more than 400 participants and it was written up in Canadian Healthcare Technology. Twenty-seven projects that came out of that hackathon moved forward. For example, one of the winning solutions, the My Baby and Me Passport mobile app, is now available. It’s designed to improve maternal and child health outcomes for young, pregnant, homeless and marginally housed women. According to the project team, which included social workers from St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto, the growing availability of mobile technology means many homeless and marginally housed women have improved access to smart phones regardless of their socio-economic status. And in fact, mobile phones often prove to be a vital lifeline for these women. The My Baby and Me Passport app allows pregnant women to keep a diary of their pregnancy experience, remind them of appointments, let them learn how their baby is growing, access relevant health information to keep them safe, and to connect with local community and social service agencies.

And attendance at Hacking Health events continues to increase. Hacking Health Montreal, held just this last February, was the biggest event yet, with more than 500 attendees. Thirty of the event’s projects are in continued development.

The goal is to bring health hackathons to 25 cities in the next two years.

What’s more, these events are catching the eye of companies like BDC that bring venture capital funding to the table to help seed health hackathon projects.

There are many ways to get involved with Hacking Health. Check out its website to learn how to participate or sponsor. If you’re a developer, join BizSpark to get free developer tools, support, and training you can use at a health hackathon—or anytime. BizSpark provides three years of free software, support, and visibility for startups.

By combining a grassroots, collaborative, problem-solving forum with free technology tools and venture capitalists, health hackathons offer a great recipe for success for healthcare innovation.

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Peter Jones
Industry Market Development Manager - Canada

Microsoft in Health Blog

About the Author

Peter Jones | Industry Market Development Manager - Canada

Peter Jones joined Microsoft Canada in October 1999. He brings more than 24 years of experience in the information technology industry with a focus on strategic alliances and key solution integrators. Read more