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Zero cost approach to fostering multidisciplinary engagement and innovation in an academic medical centre during COVID-19: experience from the Jugaar Innovation Challenge
  1. Rafeh Ahmed1,
  2. Komal Dayani2,
  3. Haider Ali Amir2,
  4. Asad Mian2,3
  1. 1 CCIT and TISC, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Sind, Pakistan
  2. 2 CCIT, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Sind, Pakistan
  3. 3 Emergency Medicine, The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Asad Mian, Emergency Medicine, The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan; asad.mian{at}

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Summary box

What are the new findings?

  • Quality of team mentorship is a key vulnerability in virtual hackathons, and this can easily be managed through more curated engagement via free online collaboration tools.

  • Virtual hackathons present the opportunity for wider engagement; however, wider engagement should not be pursued at the expense of quality of engagement.

  • Virtual hackathons may be conducted at zero additional cost.

How might it impact on healthcare in the future?

  • Virtual hackathons may add to the much-constrained capacity of medical centres, which can be incredibly valuable to healthcare providers, especially during pandemic times.


The COVID-19 pandemic, without an end in sight, has posed critical challenges to healthcare systems around the globe. The increasing severity of the pandemic and the need for rapid scaling of healthcare systems makes a strong case for community sourced innovation to help bridge the gap.

Hackathons have become an increasingly well-known tool for innovation globally.1 Widely considered an effective medium to bridge diverse, multidisciplinary groups,2 hackathons have helped teams to conceptualise and develop new, innovative approaches to healthcare challenges.3 With the rampant spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan, and its associated risks, hackathons could very well provide the needed bridge by fostering multidisciplinary collaborations and innovation output.

Given the current restrictions on in-person meetings and travelling, collecting to collaborate and innovate are not as seamless as it once used to be.4 Yet, given the urgency to innovate and remain proactive during the COVID-19 pandemic—the need to build multidisciplinary teams, and exchange information has never been higher.

Furthermore, the lack of availability of personal protective equipment, ventilators and other key resources exposed the fragility of Pakistan’s health system in its ability to manage the spread and treatment of COVID-19.5 If Pakistan was to build any momentum in its fight against COVID-19, it would have to start with building closer synergies between innovators in the community. A …

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  • Contributors RA contributed to the conception and design of the work, manuscript writing and the analysis of the data. KD contributed to the drafting of the work, extraction and analysis of data, she also contributed to references and wrote parts of the introduction and methodology section. HAA wrote the abstract, contributed to the editing and the data analysis. AM is the principle Investigator and has supervised the composition and progression of this paper across all stages.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed