Build a health app in a weekend at Hamilton event - The Hamilton Spectator

Interviews with Luc Sirois and Leo Godreault

Health Hackathon 2019 @ Nov.8-10, 2019

The Hamilton Spectator wrote up a great article about our hackathon: Build a health app in a weekend at Hamilton event - The Hamilton Spectator, Mar 22, 2017

Build a health app in a weekend at Hamilton event

NEWS Mar 22, 2017 by Joanna Frketich The Hamilton Spectator

What if your smartphone could tell you your dinner is nutritious simply from a picture of your plate?

How about wireless technology detecting a bad fall at home and calling 911?

What if your doctor could send you messages on your tablet reminding you to take your medication?

There’s an app for that because of an annual Hamilton event that brings together health-care professionals who have ideas, with the technology creators who can make them happen.

Hacking Health Hamilton aims to solve a wide variety of health-care problems with apps developed over a weekend-long “marathon of innovation.”

“It’s like a race,” said Luc Sirois, director and co-founder of Hacking Health, which runs events in 60 cities all over the world.

“It’s fun and it’s messy. People work so hard and so fast…One person doesn’t know the other and the magic happens because of that intersection of different types of skills and different types of people.”

Health-care workers or patients make their pitch Friday night and developers, designers and entrepreneurs vote with their feet by each joining the idea they think has the most promise.

Over pizza, Post-it notes and late nights, small teams come up with a health app that is presented to the judges at the end of the conference Sunday for a chance to win prizes like technical and business advisory services or building their idea in a startup incubator.

Some of the teams stay together after the conference to make the app a reality. But often the technology creators donate their time and expertise just for the weekend to help the health-care professional get the idea off the ground.

“It’s always surprising how much can be achieved,” Sirois said. “If they can do so much in 54 hours, then we hope to induce action for bigger issues that could be tackled… That is why it is important, to get things in motion.”

One Hamilton nurse turned his hackathon idea into a $2-million investment.

Leo Godreault was working at St. Joseph’s Hospital when he went to Hacking Health Toronto’s 2015 event at the national e-Health conference. His team won a number of awards, including mentoring and support from the Ontario Telemedicine Network.

The end result is a promising app called iUGO Care that helps seniors and patients with chronic health conditions receive care at home and avoid emergency room visits. It includes real-time patient- monitoring data, medication reminders, dosage guides and secure messaging among its many functions.

“Care is being shifted to the home,” Godreault said. “It’s important to have the right to tools to properly care for these individuals.”

A Vancouver group bought the app with Godreault and his team staying on to run it. It is being piloted in a number of places, including Hamilton.

“It was a great experience,” Godreault said about the hackathon. “You see people from all different walks of life, a lot of ideas and a lot of collaboration for a good cause. There are a lot of issues with health-care today. We’re feeling the pinch … We’ve got to come up with solutions.”

At the end of the day, Hacking Health measures its success by more than just the number of apps created. The real purpose is inspiring health-care organizations to be innovative and turn to technology creators and entrepreneurs for help improving the system.

“Innovation in health care takes so much time,” Sirois said. “It is the most important thing for Canadians and yet it is the area in terms of innovation and technology that is the last to be transformed. The hackathons are for people to say, ‘Enough of that. I’m sure we can do something.’”