A short blog report from our HealthXL hackathon examining how we can better leverage technology to enable older adults to live more independently at home.
More than 130 people converged on the Carlton Connect’s Lab-14 in Melbourne from all across Australia (and further afield) for the 3-day “Hack Aging” hackathon. A HealthXL Hackathon brings together an exciting mix of participants, relevant subject matter experts, mentors etc. over the course of a weekend to work on solutions to real healthcare problem. Events like these serve to building networks for future collaborations, rapidly ideate on potential solutions and offer opportunities to test winning solution in cohorts of relevant patients.
On the Friday evening the participants, mentors and judges gathered for an inspiring keynote from Sridhar Iyengar (co-founder of MisFit Wearables and AgaMatrix). He spoke to the audience on his experience as a young entrepreneur and the trials and tribulations that one can expect when embarking on a start-up journey.
“Necessity yields creativity. Invention needs to be simple”
The main challenge of the weekend was not to simply invent (or reinvent) current technology and force fit it to the challenges set, but more to carefully examine the technological requirements of older adults specifically in dementia, social isolation and malnutrition and design the technology in consultation with the key user groups to ensure it addresses their needs.
“The most important lesson from #HXLHACK: don't ask users what they want, watch how they do what they do”
Andreas Limberopoulos (part of TelexHealth team)
The participants pitched their ideas on the first night, anyone still looking for a team had the opportunity to align with ideas and teams they related to. A panel discussion took place on Friday night, I was delighted to moderate this session, where we invited mentors and judges to discuss their experience in relation to caring for older adults in the community living with dementia or at risk of isolation or malnutrition. This was a great opportunity for the teams to really understand from carers and older adults themselves what the current statues quo is with them and the use of technology.
Saturday morning 7am, doors of Lab-14 of the Carlton Connect swung open for the teams to begin hacking, by 9am the place was abuzz with teams finding areas to set-up home for the weekend, whiteboards were filling up fast with ideas and sketches. Denny Royal - Principal at Azul7 (human-cantered design consultancy frim based out of Minneapolis, US) joined us via Skype for a 60min workshop on designing with empathy. From the feedback on this session it really set up people to immediately begin thinking on not only what technology they can develop but also the end user experience and what seniors and healthcare providers might actually engage with.
The teams composition was a fantastic mix of clinicians, designers, developers and business entrepreneurs. This dynamic mix enabled the teams to build from the beginning a holistic solution that addressed the needs with the clinically utility in mind but also deigned and developed with a business model in mind. For us it was very important that the solution was not developed in isolation of the end users and we were really delighted to be joined over the weekend from a team of “experts” made up of older ladies from the Melbourne region. These ladies worked over both the Saturday and Sunday with all the teams, offering feedback as to what they felt they would use and engage with and what they felt would be not useful to them and their peers.
“Super excited to be a mentor at #HxlHack - working on tech solutions to address social isolation, dementia & malnutrition in aged community”
@biomelb - Dr Krystal Evans, CEO Bioinnovate Network Melbourne
If our mentors were super excited, the HealthXL team and organisers were even more exited to have them join us. Over the two days we were privileged to have more than 20 top class mentors disperse across the teams to help guide and refine them solution. The mentors, were I feel what really took this hackathon to the next level, we had clinicians, seniors, carers, government associations, dieticians, insurer representatives, business advisors, entrepreneurs they all actively spread out, poked their heads into all the spaces where the teams were huddled away. It is really important when teams of people are working away to a deadline like a hackathon that they take a few minutes to step back, say their idea out loud and see the reactions of people that are not intimately involved in its formation. Teams can be carried away on a wave of enthusiasm and be in the process of “creating” over sized complex solutions when really a much simpler version would suffice, our mentors really helped teams with this refinement of offering.
And so to the pitches, slide decks were handed in at 2pm on Sunday. This allowed two hours of pitch practice (and for us to arrange the room and slide decks!). The running order was random selected at 4pm, with 18 teams presenting we had six, six and six with 10 minute breaks. The room was packed to capacity and beyond with rows of people standing at the back all eager to see the results of the weekends work. Close to three hours of pitching and the judges were ready to retire and it certainly wasn’t Hobson's choice with 18 excellent offerings. But of course decisions have to be made and within 30mins they returned with Prof. Kwang Lim given the job of announcing TelexHealth as first place. Andreas, Bec, Lisa, Bob and Tahir presented an elegant solution that allows seniors to confidentially share key information about their health - such as weight, blood sugar, blood pressure - via an automated telephone service. The data is digitally recorded, analysed and tracked on a dashboard, and can be accessed via a mobile application by the patient, their doctor, family or carer. The simplicity of the solution is brilliant, they pivoted and refined numerous of times over the weekend, they took on board advice from the mentors on how to improve the solution and the end result was a technology offering that was already in place in nearly all homes and easy for seniors to engage with.
We are living in an extremely exciting time with capability to connect and converse in more ways than ever before. Prior to this weekend it was a little despairing to see the sledgehammer approach to which we were leveraging this technology to the betterment of our seniors, however for anyone that walked through the Carlton Connect buildings over this hackathon weekend could only but be impressed with the way healthcare providers, developers, seniors and designers were all sitting at the one table trying to firstly understand the real nub of the problems offered and then how they can be address with the user in mind.
What next for the winners? We are working closely with all three winning teams so they can move from their prototypes from the weekend to solutions that can be tested in cohorts of people. Together with our IBM and EY colleagues the teams will be offered guidance on technology, business, legal and commercialisation. What’s next for me? Already started to plan our next weekend, happening in Cleveland on the 23rd October, just prior to the Cleveland Clinic summit – keep an eye on ww.healthxl.org for more information.
Check out all the great solutions from the weekend at
Posts from the community are NOT edited, checked for accuracy of facts, censored, nor endorsed by nuviun.