First medtech hackathon in Serbia — These are the solutions we built in 48 hours

BY ON February 2

This weekend, together with MIT Hacking Medicine, Startit organised the first medical hackathon in Serbia, dedicated to the use of tech solutions to hack some of the chronic diseases.

Medical hackathons work as a bridge between technology and medicine, teaching both sides how to jointly implement their skills and craft their vision of solutions to the problem. As each field gives a different insight, the key strength of the software/hardware produced is that it pays attention to all aspects of the challenge.

At the first event of its kind in Serbia, nine teams spent 48 hours working on software and hardware solutions that could help people battling rare diseases, asthma, gluten intolerance, diabetes, cancer, HIV, anxiety, oral carcinoma, and aphasia, which affect millions of people worldwide.

Each team gathered coders and designers, but also patients, activists from patient associations and medical staff, and they were assisted by tech, business and design mentors who spent the entire weekend with the teams, helping them get past bugs.

On the last day of the hackathon, the teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges made up of Dr Jasmina Knežević (BelMedic), Ivan Jureta (Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS), Jovan Paunović (VisMedic), Sava Marinković (Skinz), Nikola Stanojević (Augmented Health), Bogdan Miljović (mBrainTrain) i Predrag Stojičić (ReThink Health).

Based on several parameters, including the feasibility and innovativeness, business model and impact on the welfare of patients, the judges selected three winning teams who shared the first place – Mobizepam, Gluten Tag and Beat Aphasia.

Building solutions vs. winning

The co-organisers from the MIT praised the event, calling it one of the best, of which we are very proud, given that they took part in organising many MIT Hacking Medicine worldwide – our hackathon was special because the participants focused passionately on finding a solution, rather than on the prize itself.

That’s why the prizes are oriented to further development of the ideas, and not just on the monetisation of the victory at the event. BelMedic gave out vouchers to team members for check-ups in some of their hospitals, and Startit and MIT Hacking Medicine will give support as mentors.

The hackathon also served to raise awareness in the media of health problems that people in our society and worldwide face, encouraging others to take part and contribute with their expertise.

Let’s have a look at the solutions.

#1 – Rare Diseases Team

The major issue with rare diseases is lack of knowledge, which prevents getting a diagnosis. No diagnosis, no treatment. The team addressed the problem of no network and no community that would help people facing rare diseases reach out for help. They built a web portal and an app that creates a network of doctors and patients, giving quick and easy access to information that is reliable.

The app is another step in the initiative aimed at battling rare diseases, that was set in motion with the adoption of Zoya’s Law , which gave a six-month deadline to doctors in Serbia to diagnose a child patient, after which the blood sample is sent to laboratories abroad, at the expense of the state.

The app would also provide instructions to its users, who to talk to or where to send blood samples to be tested.

#2 – Oral Carcinoma team

Oral hygiene is another major issue for our population. According to a publication by the Ministry of Health, almost half of the country doesn’t wash teeth regularly. Due to a lack of regular check-ups, nearly 50% of patients diagnosed with oral carcinoma don’t make it.

The oral carcinoma team came up with a cloud-based platform that would enable the dentist to communicate with patients and inspect the early signs of disease. The app would rely on a database that would eventually become the national oral cancer registry, giving ample information that would help reduce the fatal outcome and allow for risk assessment in early days.

Patients could exchange photos and get back reports from their dentists, who could in turn be awarded digital badges of excellence or additional credits for their annual licence renewal.

#3 – Asthma Team

The problem with asthma is that it’s unpredictable and complicated. For some 235 million people worldwide , currently estimated to suffer from asthma, the attack can happen all of a sudden.

The Asthma team built an app – Asthma Tracker – that collects data about your environment, gradually learning about each of the patient and storing information so that it could eventually help and predict when the next attack is coming. The tracker then warns the patient to bring along the meds.

Currently, the app can gather data about wind, humidity, pollution levels, taken from open weather stations. As the user checks in, the app monitors the environment and indicators, so in time the user has with him an app that gives warning and info about the probability of the attack.

#4 – Diabetes Team

The incidence of diabetes has been on the rise in recent years. It is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation and when the attack takes place, the person’s brain acts almost as if it were dead.

To help people suffering from the attack call for help, the Diabetes team built a Candy Button, a combo of button + app that can be used on smartphone and send a call for help. The button is a wearable thing, and can be installed into a piece of jewellery, which makes it convenient for day-to-day use.

When the button is pushed, it sends a call for help to emergency contacts, with info about the geo-location of the person who sent the call for help.

#5 – Break Aphasia

With its digital prescription app aimed to help people stricken by aphasia, Break Aphasia came as one of the winning teams. The key problem the team addressed is the lack of adequate therapy materials for people who are in a need of a speech therapist.

The solution reduces the number of visits to the therapist, who often do not have enough time for the patients, giving the increasing number of affected people on an annual level. It also generates exercises to be done at home, so the patients, who are often unable to see a logoped, can track their progress.

#6 – Cancer Network Team

It is estimated that each day one child in Serbia gets diagnosed with some sort of malignant disease. So, the team behind the Mladice chat, a chat app for children cancer survivors, worked on solving the problem of no or little support for children fighting this terrible disease.

Cancer survivors and children undergoing chemotherapy need support from the community and their peers, given the sensitive age and the painful experience, social stigma. They need a place where they feel safe, and the app, primarily engaging children cancer survivors is seen as one of the steps on the road to creating a stable support network.

#7 – HIV Hack Team

HIV is currently a reality for 36.7 million people worldwide , and some 19 million of them don’t even know they are infected. The most common cause is the lack of information, and people are most often averted from testing due to fear or cultural stigma.

To spread the word about the virus and raise awareness of possibilities at hand, the HIV Hack team built a web app that offers information on testing opportunities, available clinics, organisations, broken down by cities in Serbia.

#8 – Anxiety Team

The Anxiety team was another champion of the hackathon, building a solution that gives its users a chance to overcome anxiety, that can often be completely disabling. Anxiety decreases the quality of life, it can lead to social isolation, and so the team came up with an app that uses REBT therapy principles to provide an instant relief and long-term effects –

Mobizepam.

Its tools alter the way of thinking and perceiving the situation that is causing the attack, and treat the irrational thinking, e.g. in case of giving a public speech.

#9 – Gluten Tag

The team behind Gluten Tag, a mobile app that helps people facing explosive diarrhea, often caused by gluten intolerance, was the third one winning. As you log every meal you’ve had, the app keeps a diary of the food you ate, but also monitors the type of stool, trying to trace back the likely cause of the problem.

Would you like to help some of the teams?

It would be great if the teams continued working on their solutions that can make a real impact in the lives of a great number of people in Serbia. Unfortunately, the reality is that most of the participants will need to get back to their jobs and leave the app behind. If you want to help some of them with your experience and skills, get back to us at hakujzdravlje@gmail.com

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