Monday, March 21, 2016

Health hackathon opens registrations

 Carolyn Thompson, Windsor Star

A snow bird in Florida has a heart attack and surgeons put in a stent. Months later, another heart attack sends the patient into an Ontario hospital.
One of the first questions that’s asked: where is your stent? Most have no idea.
That’s a problem one Windsor-based nurse is trying to solve, by developing a mobile application that could replace the cardboard stent records handed out after surgeries.
I had this idea and I didn’t really know who to call, what to do with it, how to take it to the next level,” said Kaitlyn Sheehan, a nurse who works at Windsor Regional Hospital and in Detroit.
Hacking Health is trying to come up with ideas like these — ways to merge technology and health care in a way that makes life easier for patients and saves time and money for doctors.
Last year, Sheehan won an award for her team’s work on building an app that could make her idea a reality. The project is still moving forward, heading toward testing.
This year, the cross-border event will be held at the University of Windsor. Registration is now open and spots fill up fast.
“Now, you go to the doctors and these days they don’t only prescribe medication but also mobile applications,” said Irek Kusmierczyk, director of partnerships for WEtech Alliance.
He said the mobile health market is worth something like $15 billion.
“It’s not just about improving health care. That is a focus. But it’s also about job creation,” he said. “This is about getting companies started in this field.”
Kaitlyn Sheehan, clinical practice manager at Windsor Regional Hospital's cardiac cath lab, Friday March 18, 2016.
Kaitlyn Sheehan, clinical practice manager at Windsor Regional Hospital’s cardiac cath lab, Friday March 18, 2016. Nick Brancaccio / Windsor Star
The event matches 250 participants — doctors, nurses, programmers, students — into teams that choose one idea and try to make it marketable.
Last year was the first cross-border Hacking Health ever.
“A lot of us weren’t sure what we were walking into when we first started,” said Steve Erwin, spokesman for the Windsor Regional Hospital. But by the end of the weekend, he was astounded by the strides forward teams had made: many had come up with practical, usable ideas that might just make hospital care better.
Imagine taking a blood sample at home and using your phone to figure out whether you had the flu. What about heading home after surgery with medicine and a mobile app to remind you when to take it? Maybe you could wear a piece of technology that would warn in advance of a heart attack.
A key component is matching doctors and nurses with the programmers who can make ideas happen. It combines real-world experience and needs with innovative tech sector workers.
“These are the people who are on the ground,” Kusmierczyk said. “hey see the challenges. They see the bottlenecks. They see the opportunities.”
There is about $30,000 of prizes to be won by teams, which recognize students, innovation and marketable ideas.
Kusmierczyk said this year he’s hoping to see a strong group of students from St. Clair College, which recently launched a mobile application development program.
This year he’s expecting teams may try to innovate more with wearable technology, like Fitbits and Garmin fitness trackers.
One change from last year is a new focus on helping teams continue the work after the weekend is over.
“We really, really want to focus on helping these ideas get to market,” he said.
To register, go to