(April 9, 2018) – UTHealth students from Cizik School of Nursing, McGovern Medical School, the School of Dentistry, School of Public Health and School of Biomedical Informatics competed in the inaugural UTHealth Mobile and Connected Health Hackathon, March 23 and 30 at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Innovation Institute.

“Current health science education curriculum is lagging behind as mobile and connected health technologies are thriving in academic research and the marketplace,” said hackathon organizer Jing Wang, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., associate professor and John P. McGovern Distinguished Professor at Cizik School of Nursing. “This results in low student competency in delivering team-based, patient-centered care using mobile and connected health technologies upon graduation. The hackathon allows students from various disciplines an opportunity to interact with one another to find innovative ideas for a health concern and to understand the grievances and needs of each other.”

The interprofessional event paired six teams with faculty and clinician mentors to create new ideas using mobile and connected health technologies to address challenges in the fields of primary care and senior independent living.

Seniors from the community – including Cizik School of Nursing professors emerita Drs. Dorothy Otto, Sharon Ostwald and Marianne Marcus – were also invited to serve as health mentors and partner with hacking teams to find senior-centered solutions. 

Teams spent one week researching problem areas and crafting solutions for improving health and health care for seniors in preparation for their pitch to judges. Ideas included fall prevention, fall detection, polypharmacy solutions, independent living technology and reducing social isolation. Judging was based on the relevance to the challenge areas, patient centeredness, interprofessional team approach, innovation, usability, interoperability and the group pitch.

The competition was intense. When the votes were tallied, Team #4 claimed the title with their creation, Hydropatch - Preventing Falls Through Proper Hydration. Team members were Edward Pettitt (School of Public Health), Lanre Ikpeekha (School of Biomedical Informatics) and, from Cizik School of Nursing:  Jianwen Dong, Dilys Efesoa and Angela Alegre.

“Hydropath is a wearable sensor that detects dehydration in the elderly population,” Pettitt said during the team’s pitch. “Between 20 to 30 percent of older adults experience dehydration which can sometimes be subtle leading to falls. Our product serves as an early detector of dehydration that can remind a patient to drink more fluids, therefore, preventing falls and other serious complications.”

Team #2 finished second with their application IndependApp that addressed senior independent living. Team members were Carlos Perez Aldana (School of Biomedical Informatics), Quang Gonzalez (McGovern Medical School), Shruthi Manas (School of Biomedical Informatics) with Sharon Varghese and Alexandria Vazquez from Cizik School of Nursing.

Team #3 rounded out the top three with their application BeeSocial – Building a Community that addressed social isolation among seniors. Team members were Phi Trong Pham (School of Dentistry), Asif Kabani (McGovern Medical School), Werner Vorster (entrepreneur, CEO of TMCx company Vitls), Aisha Kalia (Cizik School of Nursing) and clinician Delorean Alexander (UT Health Services).

“It was a wonderful experience collaborating and working with my colleagues from different schools on this project, Efesoa said. “Everyone was able to bring a perspective from their area of study that was used to determine whether or not our idea was practical and would benefit the aging population.” 

The hackathon was organized by the Center of Excellence on Mobile and Connected Health at UTHealth Consortium on Aging, in collaboration with TMC Innovation Institute.  Funding was provided by the Josiah Jr. Macy Faculty Scholars Program (Principal Investigator Wang and mentors Carmel Dyer, M.D., McGovern Medical School, Jiajie Zhang, Ph.D., School of Biomedical Informatics and Vaunette Fay, Ph.D., Cizik School of Nursing); The University of Texas System Ken Shine Academy of Health Science Education Small Grant; National Institutes of Health Big Data to Knowledge initiative; Cizik School of Nursing dean’s office; and UTHealth Institute for Interprofessional Education.

The faculty planning team included Wang, Sahiti Myneni, Ph.D., M.S.E. (School of Biomedical Informatics), Amy Franklin, Ph.D. (School of Biomedical Informatics), Muhammad Walji, Ph.D. (School of Dentistry), Ross Shegog, Ph.D. (School of Public Health), Padmavathy Ramaswamy, M.S.N., M.P.H., R.N. (Cizik School of Nursing) and Jennifer Swails, M.D. (McGovern Medical School). Other faculty, clinician and industry partnership mentors included Maureen Beck, D.N.P. (McGovern Medical School), Shea Conner (McGovern Medical School), Luca Giancardo, Ph.D. (School of Biomedical Informatics) and scientists from AT&T Foundry on Connected Health.

See photos from the event on Flickr at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uthealth/41345900641/in/album-72157694723329324/