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ExperifyHealth | Working to Overcome Social Isolation in Facilities

ExperifyHealth exemplifies the novel experience of many teams at a hackathon. Dr. Jonah Marek, Physician at Bruyère, explains first-hand their experience and reflections from the dual-city hackathon series, in conjunction with True North.

Defining the problem statement

The idea behind Experify emerged when Dr. Jonah Marek, the clinical lead on the team, heard that our Hacking Health Ottawa was teaming up with Bruyère. One of the main themes for 2019 was social isolation, and he was eager to find some potential solutions.

Dr. Marek met an 88-year-old man in his clinic who was looking for people with whom to discuss economics. The man suffered from profound social isolation because he could not find anyone with similar interests. Dr. Marek was unable to find a discussion group in Ottawa that met his patient’s need. This experience led him to pitch a concept of a smartphone app, like a dating app, that would help to connect people with comparable interests or backgrounds as a way to overcome feelings of social isolation.

As a physician at Bruyère, Dr. Marek is interested in figuring out how technology can help address the problem of social isolation among inpatients and residents of long-term care facilities. He finds that these populations often report boredom and loneliness. They are often poorly connected to others within the building that may share similar interests. Event management in hospitals and facilities is volunteer-driven, paper-based, and not automated.

Coming together as an ExperifyHealth team

ExperifyHealth team from HHOttawa hackathon

Left-right – Jonah Marek, Judy Chang, Aqueela Somani and Nathan Nagy

Dr. Marek’s pitch at the HIP613 Hackathon caught the attention of Judy Chang, a UX/UI designer, Nathan Nagy, a UX Researcher/Designer and Cognitive Scientist, and Aqeela Somani a business development manager. Together they brought to the table a diverse mix of skill ranging from clinical to business to user-centred design. They also balanced each other out where some were more comfortable presenting while others were more familiar with technology and mapping user flows.

Even though the HIP613 Hackathon was the first time they all met, they worked well together. Everyone brought a different perspective and made an equal contribution to the team.

“We were a good mix with different skill-sets so that there wasn’t much butting of heads as they all had different areas and priorities on which to work. Everyone on the team was super respectful of each other’s thoughts and feedback. We all worked very hard but still had lots of fun!”

The Solution

Experify Health’s mission is to provide independence and improved quality of life to residents and patients while enhancing effectiveness for caregivers and organizations. The solution is a software platform to tackle social isolation by bringing people together through shared interests.

Their solution identifies user interests, automatically book events, and guide users to events. The platform is straightforward and secure, ideal for the young and old. They are developing a white-label SaaS service that allows healthcare providers, long-term care facilities, and retirement homes to brand the solution.

Find out more at about Experify Health here.

The Dual-city Hacking Health Experience

Dr. Marek picks up the journey in his own words.

“The Hackathon experience was excellent. In the end, for me, the biggest draws were getting to work with people that I usually don’t get to and working as a team on a shared passion. I learned a lot about both technology and business approaches to start-ups. I would do it again, yet not until I see this idea through.
Judy and Nathan have user experience research and design backgrounds. Having access to someone who works with residents and patients every day was great because it provided a first-hand view of the challenges experienced at the facility every day.”

“There are so many different problems in healthcare, and it’s evolving.” According to Chang, “Going to a hackathon helps teach me as a designer to become more informed and connect with others in the industry. It stirs my creativity to solve new problems and learn from others.”

Receiving a HIP613 Showcase Award

“On the Sunday afternoon when we went up to do the final pitch, it felt like we gave it our best shot and that we had a great chance to succeed. I wasn’t surprised that we won a showcase award. It was a great validation of our hard work together as a team and that our idea had legs. We were all very excited about winning the award, but more so about what we could do with it after the Hackathon. Our immediate thoughts were to push forward and beyond the weekend.”

ExperifyHealth, Hackathon Co-Design Finale“The next stop for us was the Hackathon Finale at Communitech funded by AGE-WELL. I found it a bit overwhelming in the sense that we had very little time to arrange time off work. I thought the organization and keynote speaker were great. I didn’t find the mentoring as helpful, as I didn’t tailor the pitch well to older people in the crowd. What was great about the Communitech event were the opportunities to network (speaking to customers, developers interested in helping, and getting great perspectives from the mentors) and spending more quality time with my team.”

“Even though we didn’t win, we did come came away as a stronger team, with some critical meetings with potential customers, developers, and investors. We also took away some lessons learned that helped us to refine our pitch for later meetings. For example, we had too much information to share, and so we needed to work on a different approach.”

What’s next for ExperifyHealth?

“The future is exciting. We’re in the last leg of developing our minimum viable product and are undertaking a series of interviews with patients and residents. Not only are we are focused on finalizing the prototype, but also learning more about the process for getting a start-up off the ground. Like the rest of the team, we are all ready to sign up again once we see our current solution through.”

We hope this experience shared by Dr. Marek and team will motivate you to sign up to a future hackathon. The next one in Canada is in Hamilton on November 8-10.

John GregoryExperifyHealth | Working to Overcome Social Isolation in Facilities