Health IT

New institute refines hackathon concepts for business

The Hacking Medicine Institute is rejiggering hackathon concepts so they’re applicable to the business of healthcare. But in some ways, it’s the anti-hackathon.

“At MIT, we love technology,” said Ayesha Khalid, co-founder of the Institute. “But I don’t think the solution here is more technology.”

In some ways, the freshly launched Hacking Medicine Institute is the anti-hackathon.

The Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit, is meant to bring hackathon methodology to the business of healthcare – specifically, digital health. It’s a spinout from the folks behind MIT HackMed, who are now launching a consortium to brainstorm applications of digital health this October in Cambridge.

But here’s why the Hacking Medicine Institute not quite a hackathon:

This new venture is not about building new technology, or launching new companies. It’s not about allowing hackers to organically gravitate toward one another to solve healthcare problems.

It’s about taking a realistic, structured approach to streamline the technology that’s already out there. Convening players in pharma, insurance, tech, investment and hospitals to make sense of the digital health landscape – and how it fits into the overarching healthcare picture.

Because while we’ve already got a litany of healthcare tools, do we know what’s really working? What’s sticky, what can be melded, or what could have the most impact? Not yet, said Ayesha Khalid, the Institute’s co-founder.

A new effort is needed, she said, to pioneer standards for new digital data, particularly as they relate to drugs and devices – as well as how to measure their efficacy and outcomes.

“At MIT, we love technology,” Khalid said. “But I don’t think the solution here is more technology.”

The Institute is, however, distilling the core concepts hackathons are known for – rapid-fire innovation, and a multidisciplinary approach to a common healthcare problem. Only, it’s building a structure around it.

One of the best parts of healthcare hackathons is, after all, forcing individuals from wildly different backgrounds to work together on a common problem.

The Institute means to refine this concept – cherrypicking players from the different healthcare sectors – pharma, tech, hospitals, insurance, investment –  and guide them to work together to build out a multidisciplinary approach to optimizing the adoption of digital health.

Announced at this week’s BIO International Convention in Philadelphia, the Institute’s first summit will be in Cambridge from October 4 to 6. The invite-only event will be hosted by MIT’s Sloan School of Management and the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology department.

By 2016, Khalid hopes the Institute will fine tune its consortium concept, and involve larger federal agencies – in addition to academicians and the private sector.