The sun, the moon and some bright minds were working overtime on the southern shore of Lake Erie the last weekend in September. The occasion was the first-ever Cleveland Medical Hackathon. The brainpower emanated from more than 175 multidisciplinary healthcare professionals organized into 21 teams, all competing to innovate technological solutions for healthcare challenges in just 24 hours’ time.
Their number included two outstanding representatives of Sectra.
Leo Bergnéhr is a Sweden-based Sectra software architect focused on increasing efficiencies in imaging IT. Ajith Jose is a Sectra software developer in the U.K. advancing solutions for cross-enterprise imaging management.
They were part of a 10-member team gaining excellent experience and two priceless takeaways: key learning opportunities and face-to-face networking openings. While the hackathon was organized around a true contest with a $3000 top prize, the overall scene was broadly collaborative—and participants included experts, students and end-users from medicine, law, technology and public health.
“It was good to work with people from different backgrounds, especially as our team worked together really hard and for a lot of hours doing some great things,” recalls Ajith. “That Saturday night, we worked well past 2 in the morning and didn’t get back to our hotel until nearly 3 o’clock. Then we had just three hours of sleep before we had to go back to finish our project by lunchtime.”
“Coming from a technical background, it was really intriguing to me,” adds Bergnéhr. “All the technical people were very good at what they were doing and had done, and the differences in backgrounds and experiences made for a great mix. We got to see and hear a lot of different perspectives.”
The ABCs of a hackathon
By definition, a hackathon is a marathon event at which a select crowd of techies and power users—master “hackers,” if you will—gather to advance the state of computer programming. And fast. The inaugural Cleveland Medical Hackathon was a notably impressive happening of this kind, not least because it had no healthcare-specific precedent to draw from, yet it brought together some of the top organizations not just in healthcare but in all of business.
Major sponsors included Cleveland Clinic and AT &T. Organizing partners included University Hospitals and MetroHealth, both of which are affiliated with the medical school of Case Western Reserve University. The event was presented by Nesco Resource, a national recruiting and staffing agency headquartered in Cleveland and specializing in IT and engineering. And the frenetically paced program unfolded on the top floor of the Global Center for Health Innovation, home of the HIMSS Innovation Center, a meeting and technology space that is an innovative marvel in its own right.
For its part, Sectra was one of numerous high-caliber corporate supporters.
Magnus Ranlöf of Sectra’s imaging IT solutions section, a vice president of product development with numerous software patents to his credit, explains the company’s interest in sending people to the Cleveland Medical Hackathon.
“We believe in sharing knowledge and having dialogues in order to create the best solutions for our customers and for the patients of our customers,” he told imagingBiz. “Internally, the participation gives our developers a great chance to learn and contribute to a community within the healthcare IT domain. They will be able to share their experiences with others and bring new experiences back. This, we believe, can inspire us all to deliver even greater products in the future.”
The results may not be immediate, he adds, but the plan is to think creatively in assessing returns.
“These events,” he says, “can create seeds that grow to become future fundaments of our software.”
Dashing off a prototype
The project on which Bergnéhr and Jose worked grew out of an idea spurred by a teammate’s actual situation. David Kissinger, RN, director of business development for Accenture’s Sagacious Consultants firm, recently found himself wishing for a way to stay constantly current with the health status of his mother, who was in the care of a home healthcare provider. He asked, How about creating a mobile app to track consenting homebound loved ones’ vital signs, receive reports from their doctor appointments and get alerted to any emergencies?
Kissinger, a member of HIMSS’s public policy committee, is both charismatic and IT-savvy, according to the Sectra duo,