Reinventing Access to Medical Journals
When the cause is noble, engaged people join forces to do good.
This past Saturday morning, several dozen people gathered in the Delaware A suite at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, well before the start of the regular ACR2016 meeting. While most ACR attendees were still en route to Washington, D.C., several radiologists, a bunch of computer programmers and app developers, a group of patients and patient advocates, and a handful of publishing industry representatives were hard at work innovating potential solutions to a unique challenge:
To increase patient access to peer-reviewed medical journal content with a technology-based solution.
The morning began with several speakers (see the JACR hackathon's website) who framed the issue, provided important background information, described crucial concepts about ideal health information systems, and got everyone pumped to dive into the day's work. Fueled by caffeine, carbs and commitments to solving the problem and more importantly, to the cause that brought IT specialists and non-IT mentors together, the hackathon participants formed teams and collaboration commenced. Overheard conversations ran the gamut: point-of-care age-appropriate materials, text versus infographics, gamification, connecting patients to content experts not just journal content, and so on. I saw innovation happening in real-time and thought "This is what reinventing access looks like."
One thing's certain about hackers: they are most definitely NOT slackers. As ACR attendees headed out for socializing over dinner all over the city, pizza arrived for the hackathon teams. After a full day of work, there was even more work to be done. How do I know? Two words: sleeping bags! When IT folks bring sleeping bags and pillows to a hackathon, they are ready for an "all-nighter."
Like the Grimm fairy tale about the elves that made shoes overnight for the poor shoemaker, when everyone re-assembled Sunday morning, to our amazement, the teams had already prepared PowerPoint presentations about their creations.
Six teams competed for hackathon glory (and three cash prizes). Considering the high quality of the presentations and the incredible creativity and thoughtfulness in the proffered solutions (which I won't reveal here), I did not envy the judges one bit. But gauged by the smiles all-around at the end of the event, the hackathon was a great success and everyone involved a winner. Each knew they were instrumental in the first step of unlocking the medical literature to patients, and in opening access to an enormous vault of information and knowledge.
The JACR Hackathon was a brain-child of JACR deputy editor Ruth Carlos, MD, and generously supported by Elsevier, JACR's publisher. To see it come together after a lengthy planning process was very gratifying to everyone involved with the journal. As JACR's blogger, I was a proud witness to this wonderful event and get to share a little bit of the story with you. Thanks to all hackathon participants for the privilege!