Monday, November 10, 2014

Hacking to Innovate and Engage: Why Hackathons Will Change Healthcare for the Better

In today’s post-reform world, we hear time and time again that there is (or soon will be) a physician shortage due to a variety of factors.  For example, with the millions of people who now have access to healthcare services due to the Affordable Care Act and the growing aging population (with their increased risks and needs) – it’s no surprise a potential physician shortage is a regularly addressed topic.  However, I still strongly believe that we do not have a shortage of physicians, just a shortage of using physicians efficiently (see past blog).

As a PCP who has been taking care of patients for over two decades, I know firsthand that the amount of hours in a day is never enough to accommodate all we want to do (we often get caught up in fire drills, and can't get to all the preventive and chronic care management we would ideally address).  Fortunately, I do believe that by combining technology, innovation and teamwork, the potential to simplify, automate and delegate care for a more efficient care delivery process exists, even if it’s not always easy to accomplish.

In this blog, I want to touch on what some consider a surprising way to simplify the equation and make better use of physicians and their limited time: A motivated and engaged patient. Care coordination can be achieved when patients and physicians are aligned throughout the care continuum, creating a more succinct care delivery process. Studies show an empowered patient can lead to better outcomes – and potentially lower costs – so the better we are at equipping patients with the proper care plan, the more we can alleviate some of the burden providers face caring for nearly 20 patients per day.

I recently participated in the Intel-GE Care Innovations Patient Engagement Hackfest as the closing keynote speaker and a judge. The purpose of the event was to solve one of the biggest hurdles in healthcare today: connecting patients to their health and healthcare providers through better engagement. Not an easy feat. The major challenges I see are: 
  •          Behavior change is hard
  •          Incentives are misaligned
  •          Information overload
  •         Patients spend most of their time outside of the office or hospital setting

 That last point may be the most important to any physician out there. The disconnect is real, and the ability to influence overall health is limited. So how do we – healthcare leaders, physicians, innovators and disrupters alike – continue to push the envelope further for a more connected healthcare system? In writing a book on the intersection of HIT and Innovation, I found some pretty consistent themes on how to innovate in a healthcare environment, which I would summarize as follows: 
  •          Have a champion with passion and knowledge
  •          Listen to and observe the front line
  •          Start with crazy, out of the box ideas, then make them realistic
  •          Fail Fast, Fail Small, Fail Cheap
  •          Figure out a sustainable business plan
  •          Spread your idea with the IT systems in place

Hackathons incorporate many of these concepts in a tightly focused and concentrated manner. They are a fertile ground for giving life to innovative concepts and inspiring people to develop healthcare’s next generation of solutions. The Intel-GE Care Innovations Patient Engagement Hackfest brought together passionate and inspiring people – from entrepreneurs to programmers to clinicians – who shared ideas and resources to make the patient the most important part of the care team. And that’s a worthy cause to get behind.

Be on the lookout for a hackathon near you! 

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