Three winning teams emerged from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine mini-hackathon held April 18.

Three winning teams emerged from the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine mini-hackathon held April 18.

With the inception of BWH’s innovation center, iHub, last fall, hackathons—events where people with various skills collaborate on solutions to existing challenges—may soon become a familiar sight at the hospital. The first hospital-wide hackathon was hosted by BWH iHub this past September and served as a launch pad for a handful of participants to turn their solutions into start-up companies or partner with seasoned entrepreneurs to commercialize their ideas. This spring, BWH iHub joined forces with the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine to host the Division’s first mini-hackathon.

“Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine is excited to be the first division at BWH to hold a hackathon,” said Bruce Levy, MD, division chief. “It’s a wonderful way to bring our community together around the spirit of innovation and improving patient care.”

Part of the Division’s Innovation in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Series, the event kicked off with a brainstorming session this past March where more than 40 clinicians pitched different challenges impacting patient care. Attendees then voted for the challenges they wanted addressed at the mini-hackathon on April 18.

Six pitches for clinical pain points (problems or needs a company aims to solve) were presented during the mini-hackathon. Teams, comprised of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine faculty, designers, entrepreneurs and engineers, heeded the call to gather with the goal to hack—or begin developing products or services—to address current clinical challenges.

An afternoon of hacking, followed by presentations of proposed solutions, yielded three winners after deliberations by judges Dale Adler, MD, executive vice chair, BWH Department of Medicine; Roger Kitterman, executive director, Partners Healthcare Innovation Fund; Cedric Priebe, MD, BWH chief information officer;  and Josko Silobrcic, executive director, Healthbox, a company that helps grow medical start-up companies.

Inspired by Aviation

SimDoc, an immersive role-playing virtual reality game, was one of the winning solutions hacked by a team led by Raja-Elie Abdulnour, MD, BWH Center for Chest Diseases. Abdulnour shared his experience of juggling the many demands of life as a physician-scientist and parent, and how such demands often leave him little time to maintain his clinical skills through continued medical education (CME). SimDoc, according to Abdulnour, can be thought of as a “flight simulator for doctors.”

“In the aviation industry pilots can’t fly planes all the time,” said Abdulnour. “Instead they maintain their skills by practicing on flight simulators. Our solution uses the same concept.”

SimDoc is a proposed software program that enables clinicians to engage in virtual patient visit scenarios. At the conclusion, the clinician receives a score that may be applied toward CME credit. The team also shared how SimDoc could be commercialized for the general public by cross-branding it with television medical dramas, such as “House,” where the patient visit scenarios would include strange, rare diagnoses usually featured in the TV series.

From Texts to Tiny Tech

Other winning solutions included Match.doc and AIMS. Match.doc is a proposed online portal where patient information from referring physicians is seamlessly shared with specialty or other treating physicians. Once a connection between referring and treating physicians is made, the system can use the information to send text messages or e-mails to patients reminding them of appointments or alerting them to any incomplete medical records.

AIMS, which stands for asthma integrated monitoring system, is an idea to utilize tiny technology and social media also to establish seamless doctor-patient interactions.

Ashwin Dharmadhikari, MD, MPH, Division of Global Health Equity, pitches challenges staff face in the intensive care units (ICU) when transferring patients in and out of the ICU.

Ashwin Dharmadhikari, MD, MPH, BWH Division of Global Health Equity, pitches challenges staff face in the intensive care units (ICU) when transferring patients in and out of the ICU.

“People with asthma often end up in the emergency room because they may be unaware of how to monitor their breathing until it is too late,” said Benjamin Raby, MD, director, BWH Pulmonary Genetics Center, AIMS team co-leader.

The team proposed a peak flow meter equipped with Bluetooth technology that fits on a key chain so that patients can easily monitor and record their lung function and wirelessly transmit the information to a smart phone app where they can share it with their doctors. The team also suggested a complementary social network and Web page where asthma coaches and patients could exchange tips and educational resources.

Winning teams each received $1,000 in seed grants to begin developing their solutions. Teams also have an opportunity later in the year to pitch their solutions to a wider audience at BWH Clinical Innovation Day on June 11 and iHub leadership in September to compete for additional funding to advance and commercialize their ideas. BWH iHub plans to work with all of the teams from the mini-hackathon over the next few months to help develop their ideas into potential business opportunities.

Learn more about iHub. Interested in exploring opportunities for innovation? E-mail