Author: Michael Docktor

Accelerating health care advances: Hacking the hackathon

Hackathon cartoon-Irina Bezyanova-ShutterstockMichael Docktor, MD, a gastroenterologist in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, is passionate about technology and taking care of sick children. He is clinical director of Innovation, director of Clinical Mobile Solutions and an original co-founder of Hacking Pediatrics.

Health care hackathons have proliferated over the last three years, perhaps nowhere more than at Boston’s academic medical centers. After three years of organizing and running Hacking Pediatrics events, and seeing nearly 40 amazing ideas generated by hundreds of innovators, we felt that the experience needed to evolve.

Armed with data and a few battle scars, as any startup might incur, we pivoted and sought to, essentially, hack the hack.

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Creating a culture of crowd-sourced innovation: A look back at Hacking Pediatrics

The Hacking Pediatrics team 2013Michael Docktor, MD, is a pediatric gastroenterologist, director of clinical mobile solutions at Boston Children’s Hospital and a co-founder of Hacking Pediatrics. Above: The Hacking Pediatrics executive team: Judy Wang, MS; Michael Docktor, MD; Alex Pelletier, MBA; Margaret McCabe, PhD, RN, PNP; Kate Donovan, PhDc, MBA, BS, from Boston Children’s Hospital. (Photos: K.C. Cohen)

A hackathon is most easily explained by relating it to the crowd-sourced, time-crunched challenges that we see every day in pop culture. From “Top Chef” to “The Apprentice” to “Extreme Makeover,” television is teeming with passionate individuals trying to solve a difficult task with incredibly constrained resources and time. What results is often remarkable by any standard and speaks to the power of concentrated, collaborative problem solving.

When the challenge involves children and their health, the results can be magical, as witnessed by the weekend-long Hacking Pediatrics in late October, the first event of its kind. More than 150 “hackers,” including engineers, designers, software developers, entrepreneurs and roughly 40 clinicians gathered to create ground-breaking solutions for children and their families.

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Hacking pediatrics: Improving the patient experience

kids hacking-shutterstock_58262788Michael Docktor, MD, is director of Clinical Mobile Solutions at Boston Children’s Hospital and a pediatric gastroenterologist with a research and clinical interest in inflammatory bowel disease. (See a recent interview with him on MedTech Boston.)

How do the most disruptive companies of our day like Facebook and Pinterest get started? In the warm glow of Silicon Valley, in the shadows of technology titans such as Apple and Google, bright, enthusiastic young entrepreneurs, programmers and designers get together to “hack” ideas for the next big thing. The concept is simple and has worked in tackling challenges from creating the next great social network to developing an innovative green-energy technology.

However, applying this model of collaborative, rapid problem-solving to pain points in health care is still a relatively novel concept. Hacking Medicine, a community of passionate “hackers” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has brought this practice to medicine and successfully organized events from Uganda to Boston. Graduates of one recent event with AthenaHealth—which develops and sells cloud-based services for electronic health records, practice management and care coordination—are on their way to developing successful businesses, including PillPack (helping patients manage their medications), the BeTH Project (inexpensive adjustable prostheses) and Podimetrics (a data-transmitting shoe insole for diabetics).

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