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Belgium’s first-ever mHealth Hackathon event took place in Brussels between March 18-20, 2016. Armed with breakthrough ideas and backed up by caffeine, competitive technology developers, scientists and medical professionals came together to answer one question: How can we revolutionize disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment in everyday healthcare practice?

The Hackathon for mobile health revolution

The mHealth (or mobile Health) project, which is part of the larger EU initiative eHealth, establishes the use of mobile devices and apps to support medical and public healthcare practice.
The mHealth Hackathon in Brussels was organized by Advance Healthcare and supported by Pfizer, IBM, Base Company, Artilium, Partena and Mutualités Libres/Onafhankelijke Ziekenfondsen as well as Belgian Ministers De Croo and De Block. During this event, app developers came together with the support of experts from pharma, patient organizations, health insurance industries and the government to develop mobile tools to confront specific healthcare challenges.

Prof. Koen Kas (Ghent University), a passionate biotech entrepreneur, founder of InBioVeritas and founding partner at Advance Healthcare and HealthStartup, comments: “By opening up the event not just for life sciences, pharma or IP people, but by bringing in people with completely different expertise, like for instance logistics specialists, we can really make a huge impact. We can come up with way more novel ways of doing business, creating startups and building digital health services and products. We want to organize real open innovation events, beyond boundaries, where people with different backgrounds can come together to create solutions.”

The 2016 mHealth Hackathon focused on six real-world challenges: improving disease prevention and treatment through self-evaluation; home-based individualized disease management; improving patient outcome through adherence to treatment and medication schedules; promoting customer awareness and satisfaction; empowering healthcare professionals through the use of the right app for the right patient; and improving clinical trial management by increasing the chances of enrolling patients and recycling clinical data for research purposes.

Momala to fight malaria: winner 2016

To deal with these issues, twelve concrete projects were proposed, and the top three teams were Momala, iMoveUP and Willy. The winner was Momala (“Mobile Malaria Lab”), a low-cost diagnostic solution that allows users to identify the disease at an early stage. First, you attach a clip, into which a thin plate with a blood sample can be inserted, to your smartphone. This allows you to use your device as a microscope. The smartphone then uses a smart algorithm to detect malaria.

Market integration of Momala is currently in development, by gathering support from the Hackathon partners for exposure in Africa and hopefully soon the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. The inventors will also receive expert knowledge from the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. Once put into practice, this app could make a major contribution to healthcare, keeping in mind that half of the world population (3.2 billion) is at risk from malaria, with nearly half a million deaths in 2015.
iMoveUP: a winner for Belgian clinicians

Targeting patients with a knee surgery, the 2nd-place app iMoveUP allows for their personalized evaluation and adjustment of the rehabilitation schedule in coordination with a physiotherapist. The device, based on a tablet and wristband, has already received successful feedback from patients at UZ Gent and has now entered a clinical trial. Following the Hackathon and based on a query from the Artsenkrant, a news platform dedicated to Belgian physicians, iMoveUp was also selected unanimously by Belgian physicians as the advancement they found most relevant.

The 3rd place winner, an erectile dysfunction tool named 'Willy", attaches a wearable around the penis and measures the amount of erections at night, to determine whether the cause is psychological or physical. Next, the Willy-app gives you personalized lifestyle advice and coaching to help you out!

“I need help” and “I want to help"

Two other projects also received a huge amount of interest from all the partners,” Kas reports. “They are social network programs that are designed to bring together people who need help and those who are willing to help. HelpMate aims to provide a platform through which cancer patients can freely ask people from the community for assistance to help them carry out their daily activities. Yagram Health, which is starting a clinical trial at the Brugmann University Hospital in Brussels, will build a social tool for women that will assist them during and after pregnancy, keeping in mind that according to new regulations post-delivery hospitalization will be reduced to three days.

Hack to the future!

“For sure we will organize a new event,” Kas promises. “For example, pharma and biotech companies are repeating research too often and are not sharing data. They act too often in isolated silos. Therefore, in our next event, we hope to focus on digitalizing early-stage preclinical R&D. But there are many more mHealth opportunities. The need is huge.”

References

Digital economy and society: mHealth.  

Successful conclusion of mHealth Hackathon, March 18-20, organised by Advance Healthcare.   (http://advance.healthcare/2016/03/22/successful-conclusion-of-mhealth-hackathon-18-20-march-organised-by-advance-healthcare/ )

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

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