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When it Comes to Health Care, Can You Hack It?

UC San Diego Health hackathon draws competitors from across US, October 6-7

September 17, 2018  |  

​On Saturday, October 6, hundreds of hackers are expected to descend upon the University of California San Diego campus to put their collaborative problem-solving capabilities to the test. The fast-paced, two-day event brings together interdisciplinary teams to identify and solve some of today’s most pressing health challenges, such as antibiotic resistance, opioid abuse and management of mental illness.

“Open to the public, UC Health Hack is an amazing gathering that has produced ideas and products that have made a real difference in the lives of patients,” said Josh Glandorf, senior director of information services at UC San Diego Health. “If you can problem-solve under pressure, this event is for you. This year’s hackathon will focus on empowering patients with tools and services to improve their health.”

2017 UC Health Hack winners

UC San Diego Health hackathon draws competitors from across U.S., from October 6-7.

Health Hack participants bring ideas to life with prototyping software, hardware supplies and application programming interfaces. Under the guidance of mentors and field experts, projects are created from scratch and presented to judges in an expo. Finalists move on to a panel of experts who select the winning teams. Cash prizes for this year's Health Hack are $5,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place and $1,000 for third.

“The annual UC Health Hack aligns with the spirit of innovation at University of California, bringing together the brightest minds from on and off campus to solve real-world health issues,” said Chris Longhurst, MD, chief information officer and associate chief medical officer at UC San Diego Health. “The teams start with the most vexing problems in health care delivery and design timely solutions that work for hospitals, individual patients and populations.”

The Health Hack is open to the public. Students and professionals with engineering, medical and entrepreneurial backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Teams vary in size and can be formed in advance or at the event.

The winner of last year’s Health Hack project was called, “Off the Wall: Reality Art Therapy,” created by a team led by Benyam Alemu, age 22, an entrepreneur and biochemistry student from UC San Diego.

“What we heard from the doctors and nurses at the event was that patients needed help getting motivation to walk after surgery,” said Alemu. “Inspired by the artwork and i-Pads inside Jacobs Medical Center, we developed software that encourages patients to walk, socialize and interact with hospital art. Patients who are motivated to walk sooner and more often while they are in the hospital are discharged earlier and recover faster.”

The multi-faceted program uses technology, art, hospital gardens and staff education to get patients out of their beds, empowers nurses to help without increasing their workload and enlists caregivers to support their loved ones.

Shortly after the Health Hack, Alemu commercialized the hackathon project and launched a company called Theravision Health Informatics and serves as the company’s CEO.

“Treat this as a fun weekend with friends to brainstorm and sketch technologies that can improve health care access and practice,” said Alemu. “Who knows? In a single day, you may invent a technology or tool that forever improves the lives of patients.”

UC Health Hack is hosted by UC San Diego Health and members of the University of California’s health systems. Sponsors of the event are Amazon Web Services, Optimum Healthcare IT and Jamf.

The event will be located at the UC San Diego School of Medicine Medical Education and Telemedicine (MET) Building, off Osler Drive. To register for this free event visit

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Jackie Carr

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