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By Joanna Dueweke
Immediately as the event began on Friday afternoon, TechTown was filled with the hum of excited developers, designers, healthcare professionals, business-minds, and volunteers. They were all gathered in this place, together, because they are believers in making a difference in human lives. Hacking Health is a Canadian-born event that brings together people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets with the simple, but important, mission to create patient-centric solutions to some of the biggest healthcare issues. For the first time ever, Hacking Health executed a cross-border event in partnership with TechTown in Detroit. Not only was this event meant to develop solutions for patients, but it was also meant to make global results.
Shreya Tekriwal, one of the members of the Hacking Health team, said, “I think that even though our healthcare systems are so different, I think that we all recognize that there are problems that can be solved and we’re all addressing them.”
The strategizing began early during the networking sessions, this was a time for people who were pitching ideas to get a lay of the land and a time for the developers and designers to get an idea of what kinds of solution-building they had in store for the weekend. Anticipation was hanging in the air while participants began to settle into their new home base for the weekend at TechTown. Although there was definitely a tinge of competition in the air, there was definitely a sense of collaboration that was overwhelming the room.
Truly, the moment everyone was waiting for was the one-minute pitches that healthcare professionals and idea-oriented people were bringing to the event. The concepts ranged from a group of high school students concerned about mental health, to a university researcher concerned with ways to help In Vitro Fertilization patients, to doctors concerned with communicating with and educating patients. To sum it up, the ideas were diverse, the anticipation was tantalizing, and collaborative solutions were on the brink of creation.
Most of the first day was spent learning about different projects and forming teams for the rest of the weekend. Day two was full of hacking and developing solutions to many different problems. Then finally, on day three, teams presented to judges with diverse backgrounds and a vested interest in healthcare. The mission of the event was to have a sense of competition, but at the end of it all, all the participants were winners because they were collaboratively working toward helping people interact in a more positive way with their own healthcare.
The MC, Phillip Olla, the Founder of Mobile Diagnostic Services and a Professor at Madonna University, joked that it was obvious who the Americans and who the Canadians were in the room. He laughed that Canadians heartily nodded along about everyone as winners while the Americans looked a little perplexed at such an altruistic concept. All jokes aside, the camaraderie and excitement was contagious at TechTown.
Smiling faces came wandering into TechTown early on Saturday morning eager to begin working on projects, the sun was shining on the idea of collaboration and coding for patients and healthcare. After a restful night (hopefully) the teams came together over a collaboration exercise and coffee. Imagine the laughter as people worked to create towers out of spaghetti noodles. How did you spend your Saturday morning?
Following some fuel for the belly and for the brain, the teams began to work on their projects. Some teams had just a kernel of an idea, and others were working on projects that had clear vision and execution strategies. That’s when the mentors stepped in to disrupt the whole process and get all sides of the table thinking about enhancing the patients’ experiences with the behemoth of a concept and industry that is healthcare.
All day Saturday was set aside for solving problems, asking questions, creating disruptions, and collaborating across an international border. In other words, Saturday was a day of hacking in the name of making human lives better. Teams spent time developing their ideas and learning about working with the developers eager to make their ideas a reality.
Dennis Atkinson, Director of Corporate Engagement for the Front Door Offices at TechTown, was mentor over the weekend. He explained, “It’s been an exciting experience to be a part of these teams as we take some very nascent ideas and concepts, coalesce them around some key issues and problems they have, begin to work toward solutions, and then work toward logical partnerships.”
Who cares, though? That’s the big question that mentors were asking these teams hard at work. As any good business professional, investor, or entrepreneur knows, good intentions only get you so far.
The tension was palpable as teams prepared their presentation materials and practiced their three minute pitches. There were a variety of prizes in contention for participants to take their ideas to the next level, and it was obvious that the teams were eager to show off their hard work from the previous days. Finally, the audience gathered and the judges took their seats all in anticipation of what the teams’ passion and excitement to be presented.
After some deliberation, the judges announced their decisions. Winners included On Track for In Vitro Fertilization management, PRN Care for on-demand home healthcare assistance, The Moment for communicating and managing teen’s mental health, and Stent Tracker for changing the ways patients manage their stents. As the saying went the whole weekend, all of the participants were winners and TechTown was honored to host all of these innovative minds working toward positive patient-centric healthcare solutions.
Video Interviews from Hacking Health Windsor Detroit 2015