Data Design Diabetes in Boston

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Hey health care hackers! The submission period for the 2012 sanofi-aventis Data Design Diabetes Challenge is underway. DDD is hosting a special information session in Cambridge on Tuesday, March 20, where you can find out more about the Challenge ( Deadline for submission of proposals is March 23.

Last year’s Challenge winner (MIT Media Lab spin-off and the most recent Health Technologies track winner of the 2012 SXSW Accelerator) and MIT-based semi-finalist will be on hand to provide their own insights about the Challenge. To find out more about the Challenge, visit

Hope to see you there!

Data Design Diabetes Information Session – Boston/Cambridge

Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), One Broadway (4th Fl), Cambridge MA 02142


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Post-SXSW Thoughts: Judy

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

As a first-timer to SXSW, I really didn’t know what to expect, except that it could be overwhelming for first-timers. I was told to go with the flow because anything I tried to schedule would inevitably be thwarted by unexpected surprises.

Boy, were they right.

Once I got to Austin, all the haphazard pre-planning I had done was immediately thrown out the window. Although my background is in health care and I’m incredibly passionate about new technologies in health care, just by perusing the schedule and seeing who was on tap to speak at SXSW I quickly realized this was a rare opportunity for me to explore some of my other interests, such as media, politics and open government. As a result, I ended up wandering from panel to keynote to featured session ranging from Government as a Catalyst: Prizes 4 Tech Innovation (moderated by fellow TPP alumna Jenn Gustetic); Arrested Development actor Jeffrey Tambor’s acting workshop; and Code for America‘s panel on the amazing efforts that cities are doing to incorporate technology to better serve their citizenry. You can take a look at my notes from SXSW on my Twitter feed.

Upon reflection, I realized that the uniqueness of SXSW as a conference is that regardless of your professional background and interests, there is something in every single talk and encounter that is applicable to your line of work. If there are any themes that I took away from my first time to SXSW, it would have to be the following:

  • Communication, engagement and accountability are key. Every single session I attended stressed the importance of these three elements. BravoTV’s Andy Cohen and New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson all noted the importance of ensuring their customers were engaged with their offerings, whether it was via fan interaction with a television show (Top Chef) or via the public editor column at the New York Times. Social media has definitely made it easier to communicate and facilitate interaction with your customer. Enabling your customer to engage with their favorite TV show or their health care provider or their local government starts a feedback loop whereby the citizen gets to participate and feels like someone is listening to their concerns. And by enabling interaction, the consumer ensures that the government, or the newspaper or their health care provider is held accountable for their services.
  • How stakeholder groups define innovation influences how we approach implementation and dissemination. One of the questions I’ve been mulling over even post-SXSW is what the government’s role should be in cultivating and disseminating innovations. During SXSW, I realized that how one feels about that question is largely dependent on how you define innovation and the pipeline for which you think innovation should be implemented into society. For example, during Jenn’s panel on government prizes, it was noted that many of the government-sponsored prizes still had not resulted in sustainable businesses. Furthermore, many cities are adopting digital methods for engaging with their citizens in order to reduce inefficiency in government processes, particularly during times of crisis, and citizens have produced various apps to help them live better lives (i.e. transportation apps). However, many of these apps and services are free. Must innovation be spun off into sustained businesses? Some economists would argue that providing these apps and open sourced websites already results in the positive externality of bettering a citizen’s life by reducing inefficiency and enabling behavior change. I’m not sure any of us have the answer or solution to what the government’s role should be in assisting entrepreneurs and innovators, but I have a feeling this will become increasingly important in the 21st century and particularly in this upcoming election.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I left SXSW and Austin incredibly inspired by the conference attendees I met, the conversations we had, and the discussions elicited by conference sessions. I’ve always been a believer in bringing together people of all different disciplines to work on complex systems problems, as everyone brings a different perspective to the table and SXSW was exactly that in action. Where else would you be able to say that you ran into Dropbox’s Drew Houston, Zappos’s Tony Hsieh and actress Gabrielle Union within a few blocks of Sixth Street? (Yes, that actually did happen and I am still in a slight state of awe.) It was also so great to hang out and meet groups of people that ordinarily would be quite difficult to organize together (special thanks to Cal@SXSW and Jeff Yang).

Code for America co-founder Jennifer Pahlka said in the closing keynote that we as developers, designers and technologists are in a unique position to change the system. We have the skills and the know how to just make stuff happen.

So what are we waiting for?

Hacking Medicine @ SXSW 2012

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

It’s two days to South by Southwest! This will be my first time to SXSW and as someone who has been trying to get to SXSW for years, I’m totally pumped and excited to be in Austin next week. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding health tech going into this year (i.e. TechCrunch’s 6 Big HealthTech Ideas That Will Change Medicine in 2012) and as a result, a ton of events and sessions are scheduled around the health track at this year’s SXSW.

All health & wellness sessions will be held at the state of the art AT&T Conference Center, right by the University of Texas at Austin campus. Here are a few of the sessions I’m personally looking forward to:

1. Crowdsourcing a Revolution: Can We Fix Healthcare?

As a nice follow-on to my discussion on prizes and challenges to incentivize individuals and groups to innovate solutions to some of America’s toughest challenges, this panel combining individuals in government and the XPrize Foundation will discuss how we can use challenges to catalyze significant changes in healthcare delivery.

2. Are Wired Hospitals Losing the Patient Connection?

I was lucky enough to see Michael Graves at Social Media Week NYC speak about how his personal experience of being disabled gave him a much needed perspective on how to redesign the modern hospital room and medical tools. The qualitative data I used as part of my thesis work at MIT also indicated that a fresh perspective was necessary to design an effective system for using telemedicine to deliver psychological health care services to active duty service members and their families. This panel seeks to open up a discussion on how best to implement these technologies to improve health care delivery, but ensure that we don’t lose sight of what really matters: the patient.

3. The Future of Digital Health

Consisting of a bunch of rockstars in digital health today, this panel will discuss where they think the future of digital health is headed, from apps to information management and behavior change.

4. Startup Health: Transforming Healthcare in America

This dynamic discussion will focus around what can be done to nurture health and wellness entrepreneurship in America, and why it is so needed now. I would love to hear what Esther Dyson has to say about the potential for public-private partnerships to transform health entrepreneurship and am hoping that it will come up in the discussion.

5. Launching Companies in Regulated Industries

We all know that one of the hurdles faced by fledging startups and entrepreneurs in health and wellness entrepreneurship is the fact that the health care industry is so heavily regulated in this country. Aza Raskin from our friends at Massive Health joins this panel in discussing the many issues that new companies face when it comes to regulations and competition from established entities in these multi-billion dollar industries. Note that this panel will be at the Hilton Austin Downtown.

Of course, there are other health and wellness events going on at SXSW, including:

Social Health Startup Bootcamp, featuring a ton of inspiring leaders in digital health and entrepreneurship, brought together by social health leader Shwen Gwee and the awesome Sara Holoubek (who I had the pleasure of finally meeting at SMWNYC);

iH3 Interactive Happy Hour, co-sponsored by our friends Massive Health;

Code Blue – The Health 2.0 | Startup Health SXSW Party, bringing together all individuals and groups passionate about digital health and health tech startups;

Rock Health’s ZenDen, which will definitely be a welcome respite from all the craziness;

and finally, the 2012 SXSW Accelerator, featuring our friends and MIT Media Lab spin-off

In addition to myself, founding hackers Elliot, Zen (@accelmed) and Andrew will be on-site in Austin, so please say hi! You can also follow all the action at and with Twitter hashtags #sxswh, #sxsh and #ih3.

Looking forward to meeting all of you hacking medicine worldwide. See y’all in Austin!

Health Challenges & the Open Government Initiative

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Congratulations again to all teams who participated in Hacking Medicine Round 2! A lot of chatter on our blog has been about the private sector and business issues faced by groups and organizations trying to hack medicine and healthcare. In addition to the private sector issues, activities in the health care industry are heavily regulated by both federal and state initiatives and regulations, influencing the delivery of health care services in the United States and how you and I receive health care in this country.

Many of you may have seen the emergence of various corporate-sponsored challenges and prizes to stimulate innovation in health care (i.e. Data Design Diabetes, sponsored by sanofi-aventis). Beyond the business plan competitions and startup accelerators out there, there are a plethora of government-sponsored health challenges for which teams interested in hacking health care can compete. The Obama administration’s Open Government Initiative, issued by former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag as part of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government passed on January 21, 2009, authorized Federal agencies to use “challenges, prizes, and other incentive-backed strategies to find innovative or cost-effective solutions to improving open government.”

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of Openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. – President Obama, 01/21/09

The Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government set forth the following steps for executive agencies and departments to meet in order to meet the goals of a more open government, which include the three tenets of Transparency, Participation and Collaboration. These steps are:

1. Publish government information online.

2. Improve the quality of Government information.

3. Create and institutionalize a Culture of Open Government.

4. Create an Enabling Policy Framework for Open Government.

Step 3 is the portion of the Directive that catalyzed the beginnings of government-sponsored challenges for federal agencies, as it gave the OMB between 45 and 90 days to establish a working group to provide a forum to share best practices on formulating and sharing innovative ideas promoting openness and transparency in government, as well as designing a framework for incentive-based challenges to promote innovation in the United States.

The end result is this:, an online platform which compiles the list of all federally-sponsored challenges in all areas, from science & technology to energy solutions to defense and education. There are 53 (count ’em, 53!) government-sponsored challenges in the Health category and although some of them are closed and winners announced, there are still a few that are still open for entry. Check it out, and good luck!

Next Steps

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Hacking Medicine Round 2 just finished up this last weekend. It was fantastic!  Honestly the group that collected was an impressive mix of 18 year old hackers, experienced graduate level engineers, business students, medical students and seasoned medical professionals.

And there were hundred dollar bills flying through the air?  I mean who thought healthcare could be this fun?!?

As we start to put the weekend in the rear view mirror we are ever focused on the next steps.  You’ve got a great project, now what?

This certainly isnt a one size fits all situation, but most of these projects are at a perfect phase for one of the accelerators, business plan competitions, or health prizes.  Toward that end, here is a list of places to look for further mentorship and seed money.  As always, if you have a project you are working on and need help, email us at and we’ll try to be helpful.

Business Plan Competitions and Health Prizes (Let us know if we forgot any):

  1. Health 2.0 Childhood Obesity: – Apps Due: April 2, 2012
  2. Data Design Diabetes: – Apps Due: March 23, 2012
  3. MIT $100K: – Apps Due: March 16, 2012
  4. HBS Biz Plan Competition: – Apps Due: March 22, 2012

Accelerators and Incubators:

  1. TechStars: – Boston/New York/Boulder/Seattle
  2. Blueprint Health: Due: June 8th, 2012
  3. Rockhealth:
  4. Healthbox:
  5. StartupHealth:

Not Health Specific but still worth it:

  1. Mass Challenge:
  2. YCombinator (not health specific):
  3. DreamIt:

There are many more but this should get you started.

Hacking Medicine 2012 – Presentation Guidelines

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

We’re happy to announce that we’re awarding THREE prizes of $1000:
Biggest Idea
Best Pitch
Most Progress

We’re capping presentations to a hard 5 minutes.

The judging guidelines:

What is the problem?
What solutions exist?
How is yours better?

Technical Details
What are the specifications?
Software – demo / Wetlab – details
What will it take to reach a full demo?

Next Steps
Customer Validation
Path to Market

What did you get done this weekend?

Hackable Areas of Medicine

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

We are just 12 hours aways from Hacking Medicine #2.

Its been 4 short months (almost to the day) since we ran the first Hacking Medicine and since then we have learned a lot!  What follows is my own personal list of the most hackable areas of medicine with some comments about the challenges within each one.  This is by no means a complete list – it is simply the one I sit with every morning and evening before bed:

Consumerifying Health: Consumers are rarely in charge of their own healthcare.  Tools that help us end users take control of our own care are going to be increasingly important.  Specifically, here are some areas that I think need work:

  1. Making better decisions: we are notoriously bad at researching alternative options.  Our doctors tell us one thing and we go with it.  We need tools that help us first understand what the options are, but second these tools need to go past simple access to information and they need to help us truly appreciate the tradeoffs.  What is the difference in risk of one treatment over another?  How does the research in a given area of medicine support each of the different treatment options?
  2. Getting to choose our doctors and access them whenever we want: It is difficult to find reliable ratings on doctors and schedule appointments easily.  ZocDoc is working on various aspects of this problem, but we need a lot more.  We still cannot easily get a second opinion (or first opinion) online at any time (though HealthTap is working on this).
  3. Financial Control: increasingly, our health costs are covered by a complicated mixture of different benefits.  We don’t have a (a good one) for managing our health benefits.  Furthermore, we dont have anything to help us manage and understand how much we are spending on “wellness” – yoga classes, gym memberships, etc.
Moving down the specialty and facility curve: Increasingly, we are able to turn complex operations into simple devices, shrinking those devices and making them cheaper.  At each step we save significant money.  For example, moving complex open heart surgery out of the OR and into a doctor’s office by the introduction of modern stents can really bend the cost curve.
Accelerating Data: Data!  Data can be used in a variety of ways to transform healthcare, but one particular area is how to accelerate data?  Can we disrupt the way clinical research is done (ie PatientsLikeMe)?  Can we use data to better drive decisions inside of a hospital or to empower patients to make better decisions?
Population Health: In the New Yorker piece The Hotspotters, Atul Gawande pointed at that a very small portion of the population is costing a very significant amount of the overall healthcare costs.  How can we change this?  How can we use screening to prevent these acute cases from developing and turning into ER visits?  How can we selectively direct resources to specific citizens who need them most?
Behavior Change: Much of today’s consumer healthcare companies are focused on behavior change.  While this remains an elusive target there is no question that it is a holy grail worth seeking.  Most of the rise in healthcare costs is from chronic disease.  These are conditions (ie diabetes, obesity, etc) that can be dramatical affected by changing behavior.
Personalized Medicine: This can mean many things.  While there are challenges here for who will pay for this, it is clear that as we collect more data we will begin to know more about ourselves and what treatments work best for each of us.  How can we accelerate this?  Much of the research here is focused on using biomarkers and genetics to characterize “who we are”.   What other data sources should we be considering in order to characterize “who we are” and selectively suggest what treatments would work best for us?
Hospital Operations and Supply Chain: Our hospitals are notoriously inefficient.  What are we doing to apply operations research to hospitals to make them more efficient?  What about their supply chains?  They are ordering equipment they dont end up using and it is costing us tons of resources.  What can we do to help these institutions improve their efficiency and decision making processes?
These are but a couple of the areas worth working on, but hopefully it gets you fired up for this weekend and thinking about the potential.

Using Data as the Platform for an Integrated Enterprise Governance Model

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Data is important. Using data to measure company performance and understand customer tendencies has shown to have a positive financial impact in many industries. While healthcare systems may have gotten off to late start collecting and turning data into information, there have been significant improvements in the last decade. This can be seen in the increasing adoption rate of ambulatory electronic heath records in US healthcare systems (Timothy Ferris, Partners Healthcare). However, in order for healthcare systems to truly benefit from this information we need to take data analysis one step further. There needs to be a defined methodology for how this information should be used to make decisions and a defined appointment of authority to execute these decisions.

My intent is not to discredit data analysis. The process of turning data into information is no small feat – it requires a complicated, yet well defined, methodology for “governing” data from definition through analysis. Rather, my intent is to bring awareness to the need for an INTEGRATED governance model in healthcare systems. A governance model that provides standardization at the data level and empowers smart decision-making at the operational level. For example, there is a huge difference between having the knowledge about how many patients occupied your hospitals beds last month and having the capability to schedule hospital staffing around the number and type of patients predicted to be admitted in the next month. How can we get to this level of decision-making?

Let’s start with something familiar… during my experience as a management consultant, I learned that the process of governing data was implemented by performing three main tasks:

  1. Defining a clear set of standards for how data is defined and collected (aka data standardization)
  2. Selecting the location for and method of data storage (e.g. data warehouse)
  3. Determining the tools used to analyze and make sense of the data (e.g. queries and formulae that generate dashboards using historical information)

As far as the resources needed for implementation – an organization should complete the first step internally in order to ensure the data standards align with the objectives of all its stakeholders. Steps two and three can be handled both internally and/or externally as there are many established practices and vendors that offer solutions.

Is it too optimistic to assume process scalability? Perhaps. But I guess the real question isn’t whether the data governance process is scalable, but whether it can be applied at all levels of an enterprise, and, whether it can be applied in a way that catalyzes enterprise integration. If we, as a nation, are committed to improving the health of our population while decreasing the cost to care for individuals, we cannot stop at merely creating information. We need to combine data analytics with professional experience to make and execute insight-driven decisions – decisions that will increase the quality of care delivered while decreasing the cost to deliver it.

I look forward to discussing this and the many other hackable areas of medicine this weekend!

Hacking Medicine Spring 2012 – Feb 25-26

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

We are proud to announce the second iteration of Hacking Medicine. Engineers, scientists, physicians, and entrepreneurs, in one location, creating disruptive healthcare solutions today.

If you want to radically change healthcare, then apply now: Bring your skills, your ideas, or both. We’re selecting 80 people just like you. Applications must be submitted by 11:59pm on Sunday, Feb. 19th to be considered!

Be part of the conference. Leave with a team, cash prizes, and a hack on its first steps towards becoming a company and disrupting healthcare.

To apply to be one of the 80:

Hacking Medicine takes place February 25th and 26th at the Media Lab at MIT. If you are selected we will send you more detailed logistics.

Check out our press coverage:

Healthcare needs you, come be part of the solution.

Hacking Medicine 2012 Agenda
February 25-26, 2012
MIT Media Lab 6th Floor

Day 1: Saturday February 25, 2012
9:30am – Registration Opens (Coffee and Bagels served)
10:15am – Opening Welcome Message
10:30 – 11:00am– Keynote Speaker
11:00 – 12:00pm – Idea Pitches
12:00 – 12:30pm – Group Assembly Part I
12:30 – 1:00pm – Group Assembly Part 2
1:00 – 5:30pm – Hacking
5:30 – 6:00pm – Wrap-up

Day 2: Sunday February 26, 2012
9:30am – Doors open with Coffee and Bagels
10:00am – All groups assemble, review judging requirements
10:00 – 3:30pm – Team Hacking
3:30 – 4:00pm – Turn in presentations
4:00 – 6:00pm – Teams present their work from the day and next steps.
6:00pm – Judges announce winners

Lunch time talk at MIT

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Highly recommend this talk if you are free:

The MIT VCPE Club is happy to host Michael Sheeley, Co-Founder and COO of FitnessKeeper, recently described as a “billion dollar company” by serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis. FitnessKeeper raised $10 million in November, after a $1.5 million round last year — which they never spent, because the company was so profitable.

Come enjoy lunch with Mike and learn about how they did it.

Date: Thursday 12/8
Time: Noon – 1 PM
Location: E62-262
Why: Because you want to build a billion dollar company too…