CHEO invites Ottawa techies and designers for hacking health solutions

hacking health

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is inviting local hackers in this weekend to come up with big ideas to make life easier for doctors and patients.

Haidee Thanda, the founder of Hacking Health Ottawa, said the idea behind the hackathon event is “rapid prototyping” or squeezing the journey from idea to prototype into one weekend to quickly see what works and what doesn’t.

“We bring together technologists, designers, healthcare professionals, together in the same room so we can solve healthcare problems,” she said.

The problems are being brought forward by physicians at CHEO like Mary-Pat Schlosser, who were trained on how to pitch their ideas to development teams.

Ideas submitted so far include being able to provide real time information on wait times to patients, a smart knee brace or allowing patients to ask their family doctors quick questions without getting overwhelmed.

“There’s lots of hurdles in terms of figuring out how we can safely use some of the technology to best provide patient care, but I think the first step is trying things out and getting these groups together to be able to start to address these problems,” said Schlosser.

Thanda said the hackathon is focused on practicality: more than 30 business leaders from the community will consult with the groups on how to make their final concepts sustainable.

One prize includes allowing a group to pilot their work in the hospital environment. Other prizes, totalling a value of $120,000, came from sponsors that include IBM, Joule and Carleton University.

“We’re trying to move beyond that inspirational moment that most people experience at hackathons,” said Thanda.

“Healthcare is a really challenging space to break into because of privacy concerns and procurement protocols. Our goal is to break down the barriers to innovation and healthcare.”

At a similar event in Montreal, Thanda saw an app to diagnose speech and language problems go from ideas to prototype in a single weekend. That original prototype, called ELMO, is now used in the hospital and has cut down assessment time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes.

This story originally appeared in Metro News.