My weekend at the NW Health Hack-a-thon

I recently attended the North West Health Hack at Barclays Technology Center at Radbroke Hall near Knutsford (15th-16th June 2013). The event ran over the entire weekend and everyone from developers, designers, marketeers, clinicans, NHS managers, researches and coders at all levels were invited to come along. As a digital developer I thought this would be a good opportunity offer my expertise to any ideas that needed fleshing out and possibly meet other fellow digital developers and designers. Plus, it sounded like a fun thing to do – 36 hours to hack, attempting to solve some of the key challenges facing the healthcare sector.

Arriving on Saturday morning to an impressive and large facility, one of the hosts commented that it is actually rather like a Bond lair. You wouldn’t know it was there, hidden away in the leafy suburb of Knutsford. Breakfasts and all the refreshments and meals were provided for free all weekend. Everyone was invited to stay overnight in Radbroke Hall also. There was a live video feed of the weekend’s proceeding which I got featured on more than once. I was actually in front of camera within minutes of arriving on the morning.

The morning session included a couple of guest speakers to highlight some of the key challenges and issues being faced within the healthcare sector. After the speakers, people were invited to pitch their ideas to the group and thereafter form their teams. I joined a group looking to develop an online consultation for patients with their doctor or another healthcare professional which needed a front-end web developer to build the landing page. Developers were in hot demand at this point.

After lunch and some initial planning, the hacking began. A few mentors which included professionals from the healthcare and digital development sectors were on hand to offer assistance and advice throughout the weekend. The time really flew by too, as the website began to slowly take shape whilst the database was being developed in tandem. The rest of my team drafted up the business plan. Before I knew it, it was fast approaching late evening. The team decided to adjourn for the evening and meet up again early next morning to get the initial concept pinned down and to plan the afternoon presentation.

On the Sunday morning, the team reconvened and we all put the finishing touches to the front-end developer, the database and the presentation. We all felt it was a good idea with potential and hoped it would impress the judging panel later in the afternoon. Quietly confident in any case I thought.

Later in the afternoon, all the teams presented to a panel of leading experts from the healthcare and digital sectors. There was an impressive array of concepts and ideas with one particularly outstanding concept of tracking patients around a hospital ward using Near Field Communications (NFC), an emerging technology and mobile devices. I may add it was very well presented and the lack of sleep didn’t seem to have any detrimental effect on the team that developed this either as they worked throughout Saturday night into Sunday morning. Needless to say, this concept won the day and was the peoples choice also by some margin. A well deserved win for an impressive concept and perhaps to be a reality in the future.

In all, a fantastic weekend event. There was a Pinball and Twitter competition too, the Pinball machines proved popular. Well hosted and supported by Barclays, TechHub and Health 2.0 along with a number of other organisations (see more details on the website: NW Health Hack. and plenty of photos and tweets on the event feed @NWHealthHack. Seeing how this event was the first hack event I attended, I didn’t know quite what to expect but it exceeded my initial thoughts and even extended by professional list of contacts. In any case, I hope to attend similar events in the future. The only thing left is to catch up on a bit of sleep myself and going to back to work the following morning is a novel concept after working throughout the weekend!

A great fun event and would recommend any other digital developers and designers out there to attend these kind of events. Any idea or concept is a good one and you never know it could well be a winning one. Give it a go!