ACR 2016 Hackathon: An App is Born
Come to ACR 2016 and see a new app created in real-time during JACR's first hackathon.
What is a hackathon? Simply put, a hackathon brings together a diverse group of individuals to use technology to solve a problem. A hackathon occurs over a short time period and is a focused problem-solving technology-centric activity. Think of a hackathon as burst engineering (a term I just coined).
"Everyone is growing accustomed to an unlimited availability of information. In health care, patients have access to countless information resources. But often this information is not reviewed or verified by subject matter experts, leaving the patient to assess its credibility. The most reliable research and medical information sources are often articles in peer-reviewed journals. But a large majority of the peer-reviewed literature remains inaccessible to the public, including patients. How can technology improve patient access to the medical peer-reviewed literature and content experts in health care? How can the peer-review community best address patients' need for information?"
Patient advocates, physicians, and developers will join forces in small teams to create a new app to address this need for patient information.
The term "hackathon" might conjure images of a person in a Guy Fawkes mask or pirates vowing to exact vigilante justice on governments, multi-national organizations, and credit card companies. But hackathons actually have their origins in gatherings of computer programmers hired by companies to find potential security flaws.
Having been the victim of identity theft, you can imagine that JACR editor-in-chief Bruce J. Hillman, MD, FACR, initially hesitated when his deputy editor Ruth Carlos, MD, and digital initiatives collaborator Matt Hawkins, MD, hatched the hackathon idea. Fortunately, identity-stealing hackers will almost certainly not be registering for the JACR hackathon, as there are more lucrative fish in the hacking ocean than a brief one-time app development contest. Instead, the hackathon is attracting computer programming enthusiasts with great creativity and drive who are looking for a personal challenge and some friendly beat-the-clock competition.
Some suspect that "watching an app being developed is likely to be no more exciting than watching grass grow," but I disagree. (Though, truth be told, I've neither watched grass grow nor witnessed a hackathon.) I believe that the hackathon, especially as a first-time event, will provide a palpable energy at ACR 2016 not typically associated with a medical conference. The JACR will have teams tackling a real-world need right before our eyes. Think about it: with talented people who are passionate about health care coming from all over the country, medical conferences like ACR 2016 can become great opportunities to connect with others for problem-focused, solutions-oriented activities.
Already, individuals committed to increasing and improving direct-to-patient health care communication have jumped on the hackathon bandwagon. For example, among the excellent panel of mentors and judges for the hackathon are ACR Patient- and Family-Centered Care Commission chair James V. Rawson, MD and Andy DeLaO, better known as Cancer Geek, who will also deliver the prestigious ACR 2016 Moreton Lecture.
JACR's publisher, Elsevier, is on board too: having developed robust platforms to improve the electronic delivery and content scope of peer-reviewed subscription-restricted publications, Elsevier recognizes that a new portal is required in this era of increased patient engagement.
As Andy DeLaO says:, "Health care's most valuable commodity is information." What better way to deliver on our obligation to provide information to patients than to draw on the talents of people with multiple backgrounds and perspectives and a common cause. Couple that with the playing-field-leveling power of computing and we have an opportunity to make a real difference. Collaboration is the key to unlocking the enormous vault of existing and forthcoming high-quality healthcare information so that anyone can access it, anytime, anywhere.
Like the old lottery slogan goes, "You gotta be in it to win it." That holds true for hackathon participation too. If you're interested in participating, register now. Even if you don't participate in the hackathon, in order to see the action live and in-person, you have to come to ACR 2016, so if you haven't done so yet, register now.
See you at the hackathon!