Hacking Health is a not-for-profit organization created in Montreal in 2012 with head office at the CHUM Hospital. We have developed 12 entities across Canada (from Vancouver to St-John’s) and are present in 50+ cities around the world. All these entities (called chapters) are built by multidisciplinary teams of volunteers who want to bring innovation to healthcare and integrate new technologies for the benefit of patients.
All over the world, our 600+ volunteers organize high energy, collaborative competitions such as health hackathons. During these events, we pair healthcare professionals with patients, technologists, designers, entrepreneurs and other experts to build concrete solutions to healthcare challenges – see all future and past events here.
Listen to the interview of Annie Lamontagne, Special Projects Advisor and former Head of Global Growth at Hacking Health.
From fun short events to transformative innovation hubs
The cornerstone of Hacking Health’s global success is the community built in each location. Chapters organize not only one-time weekend hackathons but also meetups and workshops which work as a regular forum for ideation, knowledge exchange, and networking opportunity.
“Not each idea born during a hackathon turns into a company, nor do all participants have entrepreneurial aspirations, but people always make new connections and acquire new knowledge,” says Annie.
Hospitals, like CHUM, partner with Hacking Health with the desire to give medical professionals a different perspective on their problems with the opportunity of building tomorrow’s healthcare. Read the press release about our collaboration with CHUM here.
Health innovation management
As Annie likes to emphasize in the interview, health innovation management is an emerging and evolving science, and even when hospitals are open to new ideas, they might struggle in implementing them into their practice.
“At one time a speech therapist designed a solution for her clinical practice. She did not want to start a company but wanted to see her idea used in her everyday work. Before that was possible, she hit a lot of barriers inside the institution and had to put a lot of effort in justifying the legal requirements, get management approval, etc., to be able to use the solution,” says Annie Lamontagne.
Another successful hackathon participant was Dr. Denis Vincent, an Edmonton-based physician, who suffered a loss of a patient due to a misplaced fax document. He started looking for a solution to prevent such things from ever happening again. At the Hacking Health Edmonton hackathon in 2013, Dr. Vincent created ezReferral, a cloud-based, secure medical referral management tool that keeps all parties on the same page: family doctor, specialist, and patient.
Hacking health uses different approaches for attracting participants from the clinical practice to join the events. One of them is to turn to IT departments inside healthcare institutions to identify the healthcare workers who complain the most. Hacking health sees them as champions — they are those who refuse to accept the status quo and wish to see changes. They usually become the most influential ambassadors of innovations within institutions.
One of the aspects Annie is passionate about is rethinking the inclusion of older healthcare specialists in the innovation processes. “These are people with tremendous knowledge and experience, still wish to be active, and we need to value their participation.”
Some questions addressed during the interview:
- How are hackathons in healthcare evolving over the years?
- Hacking Health is active in 17 countries. What can different chapters learn from each other?
- How to organize a hackathon?
- How to motivate participants to join hackathons?
- How do Hacking health events differ from other digital health events and how do they attract participants?
- How do hackathons in hospitals look like?
- What follows hackathons in clinical settings? Do hospitals adopt change management solutions?
Post in collaboration with Tjaša Zajc, author of Faces of Digital Health