Coders, game designers, and data professionals joined health economists and health policy experts this month to create data-driven solutions for health care inequities as part of the inaugural National Health Equity Hackathon.
The event focused on improving health care for the economically disadvantaged; those affected by racial or gender disparities; infants and children; individuals with chronic illness; the elderly; the homeless; and those affected by the opioid crisis. Participants leveraged open-source data to improve the delivery of health care articles to remote areas through the Wikipedia medicine project and detect YouTube videos with clinically invalid content, among other goals. Hackathon teams also collaborated to develop ideas on how open source data could solve various care problems, from provider deserts to alternatives to opioids.
Health hackathons have become increasingly popular since the first was held in 2010, based on similar events in other IT disciplines. In 2013, one Health Hack Dublin team produced Kipster, which integrates hardware and software in an iPad application to encourage children with cystic fibrosis to use breathing exercises to control characters in a game. Another team at Philly Codefest in 2014 created Monitor.me, a cellphone case that measures a user’s heartbeat while on the phone and compares it to national averages and checks for potential heart problems.
In recent years, the federal government has taken steps to make it easier for patients to access and use their health data. In March, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched MyHealthEData, which includes Blue Button 2.0. This portal and tool allow developers to access CMS application program interface (API), which they can use to create applications allowing patients to more easily access their health information and share it with physicians, community health workers, or researchers. CMS also publicly released Medicare Advantage data for the first time this year, supplementing existing data.
These and other new data sources enable hackathons, like this month’s event. While presenting their projects, the only thing participants in the inaugural event claimed to need was more data. Since the hackathon, participants have continued to work together on their projects, with a goal of developing innovations that last beyond the event.