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Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya challenges technology and healthcare experts to test new ideas to improve healthcare

January 14, 2014

Dr. Onil BhattacharyyaWomen’s College Hospital’s Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya challenged a group of technology and healthcare experts gathered at the recent Hacking Health event to come together to innovate and test new ideas to improve care for complex patients.

Hacking Health is an initiative that partners teams of clinicians, developers, designers, funders and entrepreneurs to develop innovative solutions to some of the most pressing front-line healthcare problems.

“The ideas that evolve from these teams are not perfect, but the likelihood of finding something new is greater because of the combination of people and the amazing energy they bring, and that’s what we want to tap into,” said Dr. Bhattacharyya.

At Hacking Health, individuals or organizations present a variety of project concepts on the first day of the event. Teams select a project and spend a weekend developing a solution that is presented in a two-minute demonstration on the second and final day of the event. The top three selected teams in each category at the conference present their projects to the participating organization’s senior management team.

This concept is derived from hackathons for software developers, but has expanded to include designers, clinicians and hardware developers addressing healthcare problems.  The teams are supported by mentors with backgrounds in design, engineering, finance and entrepreneurship. Hacking Health has held events in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, with events in New York City and in South Africa planned.

At the recent Hacking Health event in Toronto, WCH’s Dr. Onil Bhattacharyya sat on the panel of judges and presented a prize for the most innovative project solution that addresses the needs of complex patients, a key priority for WCH.

There were 406 participants who formed 26 teams. Three projects were selected for the Women’s College Hospital Highest Fruit Prize: S.O.S. (a phone app to support personal support workers and avoid unnecessary emergency transfers), ALO (a tablet-based platform for eliciting patient histories and narratives), and Dignity Talks (an application to structure patient decisions around advanced directives).

These teams will work with Dr. Bhattacharyya and his team, and take part in a design workshop to prepare a pitch for senior management at the Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV). One of the teams will be selected to develop its intervention with support for early prototyping and testing.

“We want to push the limits on novelty, recognizing that if we have the ability to collaborate with experts in a range of fields, we can develop real solutions that will improve the quality of care we provide our patients,” said Dr. Bhattacharyya.


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