Team BreakFix was awarded $25,000 at CajunCodeFest, which took place at University of Louisiana at Lafayette in April 2013. (L-R) Bryan Sivak, CTO, HHS, Stacy Crochet, Bill Fentsermaker, Monica Suire, Amy Hanchey, Teri Leblanc, William Zhang, Michael Venable, Trent Poche, Clay Allen.
“Out of the box” innovation may very well emerge from hackathons, or code-a-thons—short-term competitions in which interdisciplinary teams of engineers, clinicians and business experts are tasked with developing apps and devices that will change health and healthcare.
Hackathons are popping up everywhere—some are sponsored by government entities like the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the White House—while others are emerging from the academic or industry scene. To get a glimpse of what’s on the horizon in healthcare innovation, we profiled four winners of recent hackathons:
CajunCodeFest 2013: Elixr (Team BreakFix)
The Innovation: Elixr is a web- and mobile-based app aimed at promoting medication adherence. The physician creates a profile and enters treatment plan information and the patient inputs who is on the care team—which includes both clinicians and family members. The app notifies the patient when it’s time to take a medication, and the individual must acknowledge it was taken. It continues to prompt the patient every five to 10 minutes until acknowledged, and if there is no acknowledgement it notifies the care team and physician.
“One of the things we sold this on is that it builds rapport with patients. It makes patients feel someone cares for them and makes them want to be more accountable,” says team member Monica Suire, who works as a project manager at Schumacher Group in Lafayette, La.—where all the BreakFix team members work.
Other features of the innovation: Pharmacies are notified if a prescription is unfilled.
The app also allows for the storage of a family’s immunization history and triggers notifications for immunizations.
The innovation is especially cutting edge because it utilizes near-field communication technology, meaning that a user can bump a sensor on the pill bottle to a mobile device. The medication, dosage and time are logged on the back end, thus the entire history of adherence is recorded for viewing and analysis.
But Team BreakFix also realized that patients could trick the device into believing adherence took place when it hadn’t, thus it also captures data on response time post-notification. “If response time is repeatedly within a few seconds, obviously you want to question it.” Also, if a patient is repeatedly silencing an acknowledgement, those data are captured. “All of these behavioral patterns we can analyze and trend,” says Suire.
Suire says this technology enables better negotiation with payers, as patients can prove they are adherent. “Pharma companies want this information, too,” she says.
Thoughts on the experience: “The one thing that surprised me is that, even with the insanity, [the hackathon] was a calm, quiet environment. It’s an opportunity to truly put innovation and creative skills to the test and see what you can come up with. We literally did everything in a 27-hour period. I honestly don’t think it would have been as successful even if it took place over two years,” says Suire, adding that she would do it again.
Future Plans: “Our team has changed structure since the competition and we are working to get our feet off the ground, further develop our product and hopefully catch the attention of interested venture capitalists,” says Suire. The group has looked at intellectual property and copyright matters and is conducting preliminary research on its marketability.