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Hacking the hackathon: insights from hosting a novel trainee-oriented multidisciplinary event
  1. Maelys Amat1,
  2. Erin R Duralde1,
  3. Barbara D Lam1,
  4. Megan Lipcsey1,
  5. Brian K Persaud1,
  6. Leo Anthony Celi2,3
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2 Laboratory for Computational Physiology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3 Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Barbara D Lam, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA 02215, USA; blam{at}

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Summary box

What are the new findings?

  • Healthcare hackathons are celebrated for bringing cross-disciplinary teams together to do innovative work, but the typical multiday schedule is a barrier to entry for many clinician trainees.

  • An abbreviated version of the traditional hackathon, which we term a ‘microhack’, may be an effective way to include clinician trainees in innovation training.

  • We hosted two microhacks over 2 years and at least half of our 98 participants were clinicians, demonstrating interest in these types of collaborative, problem-solving events.

How might it impact on healthcare in the future?

  • We share our experiences and lessons learnt in an event toolkit, in the hope that our work can be replicated and improved on at other institutions.



As healthcare becomes increasingly complex, team oriented and practised beyond the traditional bounds of hospitals and clinics, doctors need explicit training in and exposure to innovation.1 We describe training in innovation as the skills needed to turn insights gained from the practice of medicine into creative action in order to move the field of healthcare forward. These skills are broad and diverse, from clinical informatics2 to design thinking,3 making them difficult to teach in a typical classroom setting. Healthcare hackathons provide an opportunity to introduce these skills in a problem-based, cross-disciplinary format.4 Modelled after events from the technology sector, healthcare hackathons bring individuals from different backgrounds together to tackle healthcare-specific challenges over a short amount of time. Similarly, a healthcare datathon brings data scientists, statisticians, engineers and clinicians together to analyse a dataset and investigate data-driven solutions to common clinical problems.5 These types of events have been celebrated for their ability to create diverse teams and involve learners in the earlier stages of problem solving and innovation.6 Studies have shown that hackathons also enhance the knowledge and skills associated with being an effective team player and leader.7 Despite the tremendous potential …

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  • Contributors All authors designed the study. MA, ERD, BDL and ML collected and analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. They contributed equally to this paper and are considered cofirst authors. LAC and BKP reviewed the data and manuscript and gave final approval.

  • Funding Funding for event supplies (posters, Post-It notes, pens) and refreshments provided by the Beth Israel Deaconess Department of Medicine, the Beth Israel Deaconess Graduate Medical Education Office and the MIT Biotechnology Group. Cloud storage space provided by Google Cloud for the microdatathon. LAC is funded by the National Institute of Health through NIBIB R01 EB017205.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.