Projects for integrated patient data, monitoring of chronic and rare diseases developed at Health Hackathon

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IT projects designed for the development of solutions for patient data integration, monitoring of chronic and rare diseases, as well as mental health education were developed on Saturday and Sunday by 15 teams of specialists as part of the Health Hackathon, the first such event in Central and Eastern Europe.

The event has brought  together 100 experts who have put forth 20 projects in the field of medicine. From Saturday afternoon until Sunday at 17:00hrs, local, night hours included, they worked alongside IT and healthcare mentors, who helped them make useful applications to doctors and patients alike. Included among the proposals were mapping the availability of medicines based on official reports; monitoring applications for patients with chronic or rare diseases; an online doctor appointment booking system; applications for emergency medical notifications; virtual reality applications; the development of mental health education programs; mobile telephone-assisted CPR, and patient data integration.

The Hackathon attendees could thus seek advice from a team of mentors working in areas of IT or healthcare.

The IT competition in Bucharest was the first such event in Central and Eastern Europe, according to Christian Rodseth – managing director Janssen Romania and Johnson & Johnson Romania administrator, the company that was the initiator of the Health Hackathon in Bucharest.

Rodseth said that  the competition’s aim was to stimulate the IT talents to respond to healthcare demands. “In many IT sectors, Romania is a leader,” he said, according to Agerpres.

Diana Loreta Paun, presidential adviser and a member on the Health Hackathon jury, said that the purpose of the event was”to improve the lives of doctors and patients alike using IT solutions.”

“The problems facing the healthcare system in Romania are unfortunately many and complex, (…) the approach that we must have is a pro-active one, aimed at specific issues. IT solutions must be able to be replicated in solving other healthcare problems. In other words, I suggest a gradual approach of healthcare problems that can be implemented step by step, as President Iohannis says,” adds Paun.

She mentioned the purpose of this project – “bringing together professionals and mentors from the medical field, public health and youth experts, students, entrepreneurs, software architects and IT professionals – which was a first in Romania – precisely to generate those innovative ideas and solutions that ultimately aim to improve the quality of life of Romanians.”

In his turn, US ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm talked about a healthy and strong Romania so that the strategic partnership between the two countries can be even more advanced.

“It is clear that there is a need to improve healthcare solutions in Romania,” said Klemm, mentioning some problems in Romania’s healthcare sector: primary care, a high incidence of cardiovascular diseases, worrying rates of maternal and infant mortality and various types of cancers.

In turn, the Executive Director of the Romanian-American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Anca Harasim underlined  that Health Hackathon was a venue for companies, adding jokingly that for the two days of the competition “hacking is legal and welcome.”

Lorena Macnaughtan, a member of the jury, said that she finds the healthcare field the best issue to tackle.

In addition, she said the first phase of design thinking is empathy, and that is the most relevant when it comes to healthcare. Patients and healthcare workers should be kept in mind, she says, adding that innovation is not just about the economy, but it is also an indicator of the health of a democracy.

One of the mentors, Rozalina Lapadatu, chair of the Association of Autoimmune Patients gave on Saturday a piece of advice to the attendees: “When you develop something, picture yourselves as the sick who access that system. (…) Your work today can ease access of many people to therapies,” she says.

Doina Dragan, who also imparted advice to approximately 100 IT developers, called her job “patient navigation, (…) a link between doctors and patients.”

“Everyone knows that Romania is a country where cancer is detected quite late, which is why we have a high mortality rate. The vast majority of patients do not know what to do when they are diagnosed,” she says.

Another Health Hackathon mentor was Romania’s former Minister of Health Vlad Voiculescu. He summarised the evolution of technology in medicine by drawing a parallel with economics, his field of business for a long time. “Ten years ago, the world was talking about telebanking. Now no one uses this term anymore, so we may not talk about telemedicine in a few years,” said Voiculescu.

He added that IT solutions could make a major contribution to healthcare co-ordination.

“I was in Boston this May (…) I was talking with a professor about the healthcare system. I kept on saying ‘the healthcare system,’ and he interrupted me and said, ‘You talk about a system, but do you know what characterises a system? A system is characterised by coordination.’ And that is what we are missing. I think many healthcare systems in the world are missing that,” he added.

Voiculescu also mentioned the experience of the Romanian patient with the healthcare system.

“You go to your primary caretaker, who has your data. You go to another hospital and you have to start it all over again. There are some award-winning Romanian films that depict this issue. Coordination is the key,” according to the former health minister.

At the end of the Hackathon, three of the projects got  prizes.