Hackathon Healthcare Innovation Sprint

Hackathon Healthcare Innovation Sprint

On your marks, get set, GO….

And the 1-day Hackathon race began, bright and early on Monday morning, on the 20th May. 130 Master’s students from the Digital Innovation and Marketing course at SBE, were streaming into the Aula to hear about the real-life business challenge which demanded the focus of their bright, creative ‘digitally native’ minds. UMIO’s Service Science Factory innovation coaches facilitated the event and helped set the scene, introducing Design Thinking methodologies and the various prototyping stages into the mix.


Making solutions come alive

The two-fold challenge was presented by the Department of Orthopaedics at Zuyderland hospital: how can the new clinic optimally organise digital information provision to their patients and their environment, and how might they create and foster ambassadorship among satisfied customers to attract new customers and grow the business. Their aim is for this to be implemented by 2020. As a representative from Zuyderland commented, “we are excited to see your solutions come alive”.  Their goal is to be the best focus clinic in Europe, so the bar was set high, and in this spirit, the challenge began!

The students were organised into 24 teams, each with a focus of either creating awareness or fostering ambassadorship of the Orthopaedic clinic. Design Thinking helped the teams to develop their understanding of the context of the challenge and to put themselves into the shoes of the target audience.  This enabled them to start thinking of meaningful, effective solutions. They all had 7 minutes to pitch their ideas to the other 4 teams and then vote on the favourite. The 5 teams who went through to the semi-finals went onto pitch to the whole group in the Lecture Theatre at the end of the day. The day was mapped out with military precision, with pitching sessions scheduled just 4 hours after the initial introduction. In that time, the Service Science Factory innovation coaches were on hand to help the teams ideate their solutions, prioritise decisions and help them build a rapid prototype using innovative Design Thinking methodology.


The atmosphere in all the rooms was one of intense and focussed concentration, but it wasn’t without an element of fun too. David Northeok, A German student working on the raising awareness challenge, noted that because they were all familiar with each other already in their team, this helped with the process and dynamics. They all bring with them a unique perspective to the problem and he added that one of their group was from Spain, so came with a different approach to thinking about the way in which patients might interact with these services and want to use this digital technology. The international perspectives of the student cohort, is part of the strength of this particular hackathon formula.

Looking through the eyes of a patient

One of their biggest challenges for the students, however, aside from the time pressure, was getting into the patient mindset. This was a common theme across the teams, how does a master’s student in their early 20’s who may have never known anyone who has needed to use the services of an orthopaedic clinic before, get into the mindset of a typical orthopaedic patient in their late 60’s? Tackling the need for the personal connection between the patient, the GP, the Physio, is an important part of the process when looking for solutions to this challenge, and not only thinking of the technology, but also the unique benefit of the patient using these digital solutions. To help the students address this problem, there were patients from the Orthopaedic clinic present throughout the day making themselves available to the students and answering their questions. When asked what social media platforms they used, the teams were a little surprised by Connie’s nonchalant reply,  “ yes I use facebook and instagram”.  So, perceptions were constantly being adjusted and the need for a human-centred mindset in this type of situation, was clearly shown, something of which the Service Science Factory team are pioneers. Technology fuels innovation. Disruptive services and products are shaping the world. Human behaviour evolves with this kind of disruptive meaningful innovation and so does the business context. In such an environment, it is a delicate balance of empathising with consumers to design services for them and building a profitable business. That’s where a Hackathon plays its part.


What’s in it for my business?

A hackathon presents an effective innovation formula for businesses and provides the scaffolding for a challenge like this one to be realised effectively within a tight timeframe, with implementable and practical solutions. A hackathon is designed around the principals of working together. It is about understanding the problem before creating solutions. Most importantly, formulating the right design challenge is what makes a hackathon valuable.

For the students, it’s an opportunity to apply their academic knowledge and learning into a real-life business problem with all that entails, the ups and the downs. Some ideas hit the mark and some miss it, but the advantage of a bottom up approach, is that you get to find out quickly whether it works or not, and that’s how we innovate.  This is a 1-day design sprint which takes no prisoners!


..And the patients’ response?

Henriëtte Mulders, a Primary school teacher who had undergone an operation on her knee last year and who had been a patient at the clinic, appreciated the input and work from the students and everyone involved in the day saying, “if there had been these ideas when I was recovering post-op, I would have really appreciated and welcomed them”.  Connie, agreed, she was “very inspired” by the ideas presented.

The 5 finalist teams presented their pitches at Zuyderland in Sittard to a panel of medical and business professionals on Monday 27 May. The panel were impressed by the quality and innovative, meaningful solutions.  All the winning teams highlighted the unique building blocks in their solutions and it will be a combination of all these ideas, bringing the best ingredients together, which Zuyderland will take forward for their business plan.

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