Blue Devils and Tar Heels may be rivals on the court, but there is little doubt they can be partners in research and innovation.
Last weekend, the Duke School of Medicine Innovation and Entrepreneurship Activity Group and the Carolina Health Entrepreneurship Initiative jointly organized the first ever Triangle Health Innovation Challenge (THInC), a 48-hour ‘hackathon’ that brought together students, clinicians, engineers, and business people from around the Triangle to collaborate on solving problems in healthcare and medicine.
The organizers wanted to tap into the collective knowledge of the Triangle to tackle healthcare problems in novel ways, and to engage individuals who did not necessarily see themselves as healthcare innovators.
“We realized that the Triangle has an immense pool of academic, clinical, and technical talent, but these groups of people rarely interact,” said co-organizer Tanmay Gokhale, an M.D./Ph.D. student in Biomedical engineering at Duke. “We wanted to bring them all into the same room and empower them to make a difference in healthcare.”
On Friday, the first evening of the event, 127 participants pitched 44 different healthcare problems, proposed 25 solutions, and broke into 15 teams that were, for the most part, interdisciplinary and involved members from across the Triangle.
Many Pratt School of Engineering students, both undergraduate and graduate, participated in the event, and several were members of winning teams.
Each team worked through the weekend, designing and creating a product that delivered on a proposed solution. The projects ranged from evaluating treatment and clinic options for patients through a mobile app, to informing future patients by crowdsourcing opinions and advice from people who had experienced similar medical situations.
The ingenuity and quality of the solutions that were presented on Sunday afternoon was stunning; each team had drawn from their own firsthand experiences with the shortcomings and challenges of the healthcare system to deliver targeted, nuanced products that tackled meaningful issues.
In a time-cap of three minutes, each team presented the fruits of their weekend of hacking, and were judged not only on their creativity and technical complexity, but also on clinical and business feasibility. Four winners were awarded $13,000 in cash and credits to work with the API (programming interface) of Validic, a Durham company that collects de-identified patient data from medical devices, wearables and apps.
Team Tiba, the winner of the grand prize, created a wearable physical therapy activity tracker to ensure that patients performed their physical therapy exercises regularly and correctly.
Team Breeze, winner of the runner-up prize, presented a smart lung function trainer and app to encourage pursed-lip breathing exercises in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Team Leia, the winners of the Mosaic Health Solutions prize, developed a digital to-do list for physicians, which integrated intimately with stores of data in order to send live push notifications about patient updates and prioritize different actions for different studies. The team hoped to improve
patient and physician satisfaction as well as patient safety, by assuring that doctors were up to date on conditions and constantly in sync with changes and improvements. Their prototype piggybacked off of current medical APIs, and queried existing data, making it easy for the roughly 150,000 clinicians who already store their data online to easily transition to the app.
Given the immense success of THInC, the organizers said they’re already planning to do it again next year. They’d like to recruit more students as well as more professional developers and programmers so that more teams could come away with a functioning prototype of their solution.
For any questions regarding the event, or planning, promoting, or executing next year’s event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested individuals can also join the Health 2.0 NC Triangle group to participate in other similar events and meet similarly minded people in the area – all are welcome!