DIG Hackathon - Disrupting The Industry From The Inside

November 24, 2020 Maryam Gholami

Hackathons (Hack Marathons) are simply a part of the tech industry tradition. During a hackathon, engineers and others get together in an intense period of few days to collaboratively work on a software development project. Given this, the programming is more exploratory to demonstrate an idea or concept, so the term hack is used. As explained here, this alternative meaning does not refer to breaching computer security.

At Providence, we are a big believer in this tradition, and I personally just love a good hackathon. There really is no better way to quickly channel talented people toward new thinking on projects that have meaning to them personally. I just love how it frees the team and unleashes true innovation.

So hackathons belong here at Providence.

In my role here, I lead a gifted team of product, design, user research, data science, and engineering team members who are 100% focused on building scalable software platforms and solutions that matter here at Providence — and to the industry as a whole. In a year that has reinforced the need for digital acceleration in healthcare — and been defined by disruption itself — we saw the opportunity to dial up our efforts.

Traditionally, our Providence Digital Innovation Group (DIG) hackathons are in-person events at our Seattle Downtown office. As you can imagine, this year has been an extremely busy year for our team, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and our community needs by enabling Providence and other health systems with an array of virtual care technology solutions including DexCare and Grace (Smart Health Assistant). Initially, I was a bit concerned that the team might be already too exhausted and not that interested in running the summer hackathon this year. We did a quick survey of the team and guess what? My team wanted the hackathon more than ever because they felt the need for faster, and more agile innovation, and they craved the fun we have had during these events.

Given the impacts of the pandemic, we saw a unique opportunity to capitalize on the situation and pivot towards a virtual format that could expand our efforts, making them bigger than ever before. Hosting our hackathon virtually eliminated physical restrictions and enabled our team to invite a more diverse set of participants that cut across demographics and disciplines, including the Providence IT team headed by BJ Moore, members of our strategy and business teams here at DIG, and our remote teams including those in our offices in Canada and India. With the help of our partners at Microsoft including the Garage team, we managed to do the planning in less than two weeks. Microsoft also provided tools, training, and resources for the teams to leverage, using their platform solutions including Microsoft Teams, Azure, and Cognitive Services. We are grateful for all the help and support and couldn’t have done this without them.

While we had planned detailed judging criteria with various awards, I challenged the group to work on projects that could be viable — ones that we would build, test, scale, and eventually activate — and the team came through with flying colors.

5 days. 3 hacking days. 100 projects.

The outcome of this year’s hackathon was astounding. We saw more than 100 innovative projects and solutions sourced from across the organization. In fact, interestingly, we found that the most successful teams in this event were those composed of women and men from completely different geographies across vastly different departments and disciplines.

We were blown away by the number of projects dedicated to solving a myriad of issues across the care spectrum — from the most practical efficiencies to big ideas. Even more, each felt integral to the Providence mission.

Some that stood out include:

● Team Super Cool developed a solution focused on expanding access to resources for suicide prevention, leveraging our Consumer Engagement Platform (CEP) capabilities

● Team Viva Grace built a concept that expanded our smart assistant Grace’s capabilities to provide health information for those who lack access to informational resources in their native language

● Team Wearables developed a solution that enabled the integration of wearables and smart devices into our Consumer Engagement Platform, providing insights to patients and providers, and to support our future goals with remote patient monitoring and personalization.

I am delighted to say that some of these projects already have captured the attention of internal sponsors and business lines and are moving on a path toward production.

A new product in and of itself

I’m a huge believer that when something is successful, you iterate and optimize around positive outcomes to do more with it. Given the massive success we’ve experienced this year, we’re looking to build upon this format, and expand the event further to enable more bright minds to join us in using digital technology to address some of health care’s biggest problems.

Health care, as many of us know, is a global problem. And while it’s crucial for it to work efficiently on a local level, we need big ideas that can scale. We think events like these can be a catalyst.

Stay tuned, because our team at the Providence Digital Innovation Group is on a roll. Care to join us?

To learn more about the Providence Digital Innovation Group and opportunities to work with us visit: www.providence-dig.org.

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