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Inspiring nursing innovation for COVID-19 and beyond

Person in a Teams video call
To harness the innovative power of nurses and improve the global response to COVID-19, Microsoft was pleased to partner with Johnson & Johnson, SONSIEL (Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Leaders) and dev up to host the free, virtual NurseHack4Health hackathon, Nov. 13-15. Even more rewarding was having over 400 worldwide participants working in 16 teams using Microsoft Teams, GitHub, Power Apps, Azure and other trusted technologies to develop ideas addressing pandemic and other key healthcare challenges.

Nurses leading innovation

COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated fundamental changes throughout the American healthcare system by breaking down barriers, driving rapid innovation and redefining best practices. Amid this crisis, nurses are being recognized and widely called upon to find, shape and lead innovative solutions. The fall NurseHack4Health provided a forum to inspire and encourage nurses to continue applying their insights and knowledge, serving as a follow-up to the first-ever NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon last May during National Nurses Month, resulting in five winning ideas.

The 2020 hackathons recognized that nurses use a variety of technologies every day but may not take full advantage of the capabilities. A good example is Microsoft Teams, which many in healthcare use for quick chats and virtual meetings with colleagues, but not for external patient meetings, calls and other types of internal and external collaboration. To open creative ideas for using technology to its best advantage, the hackathon also overcame a few misconceptions. For example, some in the nursing community may:

  • Not know how to extend Teams capabilities to support critical pandemic work.
  • Think only developers can build apps when Power Apps enables everyone to quickly build and share low-code apps.
  • Be unaware that the secure Teams hub supports compliance with HIPAA, HITECH and other regulations.

Pre-event preparation

Our Microsoft U.S. Health and Life Sciences team addressed several technology issues before the hackathon to enhance the NurseHack4Health experience, including:

  • Creating a public WordPress website, so that event organizers could contribute content without developer assistance.
  • Providing a list of training content for registrants to better prepare for the event.
  • Developing a Cloud Skills Challenge targeting non-developer hackathon participants.
  • Launching a matchmaking app in Teams allowing hackers to advertise their skills and create or join hackathon teams.
  • Automating GitHub administration to enable greater efficiency and team building, deliver more guidance and help unblock users.

We also joined with our fellow sponsors in eliminating NurseHack4Health judging to drive greater team and individual participation as well as ideas.

NurseHack4Health resultsNurseHack4Health Logo

NurseHack4Health resulted in 15 new ideas from nurses and other innovators, with nine concepts addressing pandemic problems and the balance focused on various healthcare requirements. Be sure to watch this podcast recapping the event and consider these examples of hackathon ideas:

  • Mobile education vax facts: A free nursing app offering the most current COVID-19 vaccine informational videos to educate patients and overcome vaccine reluctance.
  • Hello harmony: With youth suicide increasing during the pandemic, this proposed text bot would allow young people to interact with a virtual friend in games addressing feelings of loneliness, shame, depression and fear.
  • 4moms4health: A mobile pregnancy app aimed at decreasing complication risks and the mortality rate among vulnerable and underserved populations.
  • New futures: A chatbot called “Nurse J” to equip users with nonjudgmental and evidence-based responses to battle COVID-19 social media disinformation.
  • Home Nightingale: An app for care teams to communicate post-hospital care, education and support for patients and their families or caregivers.

Nurturing creativity

While it remains to be seen which of the NurseHack4Health ideas move forward, it’s clear that there’s a significant opportunity to nurture creativity among nurses to solve pressing healthcare demands while continuing their tireless and heroic pandemic efforts. We’re already discussing ways to encourage greater participation and improve the hackathon experience in the next NurseHack4Health scheduled for May 14-16, 2021. For Microsoft, our goal with hackathons, the one-hour Microsoft AI in Health Care: Leading Through Change virtual training and other outreach initiatives is to empower the healthcare community to achieve more by responding, recovering and reimagining a future of securely delivering better experiences, insights and care.