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48 Hours, 450 Innovators, 8 Countries, and How the Next Health Start-Up May Have Just Been Founded

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Jason Sanders, an Emergency Medicine Resident and PhD, and the team of health professionals he was working with knew about the barriers.

The developing world, they’d been told, was still struggling in some cases to reap the intended benefits of new healthcare technology meant to make caring for patients easier for clinicians, all because of a lack of training. Technology like portable ultrasound had rapidly developed and meant providers in remote locations could – in theory – scan, diagnose and potentially help a patient in a low cost, rapid way, but – in practice –often didn’t know how.

Jason and team heard about these barriers over and over again, and they wanted to help develop a potential solution.

So, what happened when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) locked them along with hundreds of others of the best brains from across the healthcare industry and 8 countries in a room for 48 hours?

They came up with the idea for a mobile system capable of telling a medical provider where to place an ultrasound probe on a patient for diagnosis or examinations. This Infinity Ultrasound, as Jason’s team called it, was one among other ideas announced as winners out of the 2nd annual MIT Health Hackathon and may one day become reality.

“Ultrasound appears to be a wonderful technology for diagnosis and triage, but we kept hearing that medical professionals weren’t using it in developing areas. We spoke with experts to determine why,” Jason said. “Two barriers were mentioned repeatedly: cost and lack of training. We decided to aim high and attempt to solve for both with our concept. The Grand Hack allowed our team to meet and to come up with an idea for a solution in an environment where we weren’t afraid our idea would be considered too off-the-wall.”

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MIT Grand Hack 2015 kicks off.

At MIT’s Health Hackathon this year, over 450 engineers, developers, designers, entrepreneurs and more from 19 states and eight countries – including participants from Canada, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Uganda, and Qatar – came together to form groups, prototype a solution, and develop a business model, all in 48 hours, before presenting their ideas to judges. All with the goal of developing ideas for future solutions to today’s most pressing healthcare challenges. Up for grabs this year was not only funding, but also opportunities for teams to develop their ideas into startups through incubation and mentorship.

“With the collision of health, high tech, and value-based care, there really is no better time to create a healthcare start-up,” says Zen Chu, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and one of the founders of MIT Hacking Medicine. “Health hackathons like the Grand Hack bring diverse stakeholders under one roof and allow them to create that future together. The solutions developed and launched at the hack are windows into the healthcare technology that may one day soon become commonplace.”

One of the best opportunities for a hack to make a difference is in the rapidly evolving landscape of primary care. Annual physical exams, referral to specialists, managing of chronic conditions, healthy habits coaching, and much more are all part of this field. New technology is making way for big changes in the way primary care can be taught and delivered.

The Infinity Ultrasound 1st Prize winning team.

The Infinity Ultrasound 1st Prize winning team.

“Ultrasound technology may be the key to impacting big change. It’s portable, low cost and has no ionizing radiation,” said Anders Wold, President and CEO of Ultrasound, GE Healthcare. “Collaborating with MIT on the Grand Hack allows us to bring together brain power from across the healthcare industry to help develop ideas for solutions to the most pressing challenges with a goal of improving access to quality care today.”

Since the hackathon, Jason and his team have already begun developing the provisional patent and technology for their Infinity Ultrasound.

“We envision a day, sooner than we think, where everyone, everywhere will have access to a simple, quality ultrasound,” he said.

 

The ideas and solutions referenced above are purely conceptual at this point.  These ideas and solutions have not been developed into commercial products and are not for sale, and they may never become commercial products