Hackathon pairs health workers and tech whizz-kids

August feels like innovation month in the Mother City, with news almost every day of another cutting edge collaboration between innovators and investors, or inventors and technical whizz-kids.

A number of new tech solutions to healthcare problems will be in the incubator this week after a hackathon pairing boffins with healthcare workers last weekend. A total of 55 people took part in the hackathon, including teams from Marie Stopes clinics, Bandwidth Barn in Khayelitsha, Mobenzi, the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre, Replenish Media and Nexterday, as well as many students and academics.

The winning team created an app called ‘Pulse’ to incentivise patients to manage chronic conditions and stay healthy. Pulse will help patients to keep track of their health status and remind them to take medication or attend appointments. Users will be able to add notes on their symptoms and responses to medication. The app will reward users for compliance through a points system. Each time they visit the clinic or hospital, take their medication, or improve their health status, they will accumulate points which can be redeemed at stores such as Pick ‘n Pay, Clicks and Dischem.

The team, which included representatives from Replenish Media software architects and engineers and Marie Stopes health clinics, won support to the value of R10 000 to develop the app as well as access to mentoring from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Vula Mobile, Visions2Ventures and the Bertha Centre, a unit within UCT’s Graduate School of Business that is dedicated to advancing social innovation and entrepreneurship.

The runners-up created an app called ‘CommunityConnect’, which aims to promote health by connecting communities to existing social resources, including community safety programmes, income support, counselling, shelter and housing, training and education services, and wellness programmes.

The app will collate all social services and community resources in a region in one simple interface, making it easy to identify resources according to type and location. CommunityConnect is designed for use by health professionals, social service professionals, civil servants and citizens, and will be kept updated by the community who know and use the services.

Users of CommunityConnect, which was developed by a team that included medical students and doctors as well as representatives from Mobenzi and Silicon Cape, will be able to comment and provide feedback about the services offered, thus encouraging organisations and community groups to provide reliable, up-to-date information.

Other apps developed include Medipoint, an app for patient-held medical information; UPYA, an app to help patients recover after being discharged from physical rehabilitation centres; MyHospital, an app to compile information about medical facilities in South Africa, including information for interns; and a diagnostic app to assist in patient management and diagnostics in rural areas.

By Siobhan Cassidy from ANA

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Hackathon pairs health workers and tech whizz-kids