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Health hackathons: theatre or substance? A survey assessment of outcomes from healthcare-focused hackathons in three countries
  1. Kristian R Olson1,2,3,
  2. Madeline Walsh4,
  3. Priya Garg5,
  4. Alexis Steel1,3,
  5. Sahil Mehta6,
  6. Santorino Data7,8,
  7. Rebecca Petersen9,
  8. Anthony J Guarino10,
  9. Elizabeth Bailey1,3,
  10. David R Bangsberg11
  1. 1Massachusetts General Hospital Global Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Consortium for Affordable Medical Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4Department of Political Science, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA
  5. 5Department of Hacking Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6Lattice Innovations, New Delhi, India
  7. 7Department of Pediatrics, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda
  8. 8Consortium for Affordable Medical Technology Uganda, Mbarara, Uganda
  9. 9Department of Psychology, Azimuth Psychological, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  10. 10Fulbright Specialist, Fulbright Scholar Program, Boston, MA, USA
  11. 11Oregon Health and Sciences University-Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kristian R Olson, 125 Nashua Street, 7th Floor, Boston, MA 02114, USA; krolson{at}


Background Healthcare-focused hackathons are 48-hour platforms intended to accelerate novel medical technology. However, debate exists about how much they contribute to medical technology innovation. The Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech) has developed a three-pronged model to maximise their effectiveness. To gauge the success of this model, we examined follow-up outcomes.

Methods Outcomes of 12 hackathons from 2012 to 2015 in India, Uganda and the USA were measured using emailed surveys. To minimise response bias, non-responding teams were coded as having made no progress.

Results 331 individuals provided information on 196 of 356 projects (55.1% response rate), with no difference in responses from teams participating in different countries (Cramer's V=0.09, p=0.17). 30.3% of projects had made progress after a mean of 12.2 months. 88 (24.7%) teams had initiated pilot testing, with 42 (11.8%) piloting with care providers and 24 (6.7%) with patients. Overall, 97 teams (8.1 per hackathon) drafted business plans, 22 (1.8 per hackathon) had filed patents on their innovations and 15 (1.3 per hackathon) had formed new companies. Teams raised US$64.08 million in funding (average US$5.34 million per hackathon; median award size of $1800). In addition, 108 teams (30.3%) reported at least one member working on additional technologies with people they met at a hackathon. Individual confidence to address medical technology challenges was significantly increased after attending (t(1282)=192.77, p 0.001).

Conclusion CAMTech healthcare hackathons lead to consistent output with respect to medical technology innovation, including clinical trials, business plan development, securing investment capital/funding and new company formation.

  • hackathons
  • medical devices
  • innovations
  • low and middle income countries
  • value

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  • Twitter Follow Kristian Olson @olsonkristian1

  • Contributors KRO conceptualised the study design, execution, and provided the first draft of the article, subsequent revisions, and submitted the manuscript. MW contributed to data collection, initial analysis, and research of background as well as initial drafts. PG contributed to the design and initial survey draft, and performed data collection for the first survey time period as well as draft revisions. AS, SM, SD and EB all contributed to conceptualisation of the study design and to editing of the manuscript drafts. RP and AJG contributed to the formatting of the arguments, statistical analysis and draft editing. DRB helped to conceptualise the investigation and provided guidance on the analysis and structure of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the editing of the final drafts of the manuscript and all provided approval of the final submission.

  • Funding This study was graciously funded by the Bacca Foundation (Grant Number 1200-020972).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Partners Healthcare Institutional Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement KRO, MW, RP and AJG are study staff who continue to have access to the entire data set. All have completed Human Subjects Research training. These data are available only via password-protected web portals to the primary survey responses.

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