Students team up to create digital solutions for healthcare challenges

A BCIT student presents her final project at Hacking Health
A BCIT student presents her final project at Hacking Health

Healthcare workers may have a deep understanding of the procedures and systems in their profession, but most don’t have the technical skills required to develop new applications that could improve those systems. Enter Hacking Health, an event designed to improve healthcare by inviting technology creators and healthcare professionals to collaborate on digital solutions to front line healthcare problems.

Hacking Health was recently in Vancouver as part of the eHealth Conference and Tradeshow. Motivated to learn new skills in a fun environment by rapidly building prototypes of their ideas, BCIT students from the School of Health Sciences and the School of Computing and Academic Studies were quick to join in.

Jessica Sumaculub, a Computer Information Technology student, wanted to get involved “to experience something different” than her usual school projects. “This gave me the opportunity to showcase the skills that I have developed during my time at BCIT,” she says.

BCIT's 2014 Hacking Health team.
BCITs 2014 Hacking Health team

Hacking Health begins with project pitches, where individuals make short presentations to describe the idea they would like to work on. Based on these presentations, attendees choose to join projects that interest them, forming interdisciplinary teams. At the end of the day, each team presents their accomplishments.

Jessica’s project was a web application called MySideFx that would allow users to search a symptom and view side effects and treatment options. “Users will have the ability to vote on symptoms they have experienced and add their own symptoms if not listed,” explains Jessica. “Our team also developed a functioning website for the presentation.”

“The event as a whole was a learning experience since I had the opportunity to work with new people,” she continues. Indeed, the collaboration between healthcare and technical professionals added unique value and challenge to the event. The Hacking Health website cautions, “Medical professionals will need to learn how to adapt their ideas for a technical audience; Hackers will need to make extra effort to understand unfamiliar problems and help non-technical domain experts refine their ideas.”

Jessica was happy to make the effort. “It was fun and a lot of pressure to complete something in the amount of time given but we were able to pull through a sleepless night before the presentation,” she says.

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