We’re back from Singapore!

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Soaring skyscrapers, architectural wonders, spotless streets
and sidewalks, it would not come as a surprise to many that Singapore (SG) is a
relatively young country. Having attained independence in 1965, Singaporeans
quickly set about building a country in a way to distinguish themselves from
the much larger countries around them. For a population as diverse as
Singaporeans, this was no mean feat. In a land mass ¼ the size of Rhode
Island, the 6 million citizens represent a diverse ethnic and religious
spectrum. There are Malays, Chinese, Indians, Christians, Muslims, and
Buddhists. What then ties these people together? A strong sense of national
pride, or rather in the principles that have made this small island a thriving
tourist destination and a financial hub of the world.

My first conversation in SG was with my taxi driver from the
airport. From this, it became clear that the driving force of the country was
the populations’ strong work ethic. He explained that few welfare programs
exist, as the pervasive thought is that nobody should expect a handout if they
do not contribute to society in the form of work. The government also employs
strict rules it expects everyone to abide by, and reinforces this through the
strictest punishment: corporal
punishment in the form of caning is often handed out to perpetrators of
vandalism. The right to protest is nonexistent, and the country has been
ruled by the same party for the last 60 years, and has had 3 rulers: 2 of which
are father and son.

National military service is required of all men. Rights are
often curtailed in the interest of public good. For example, Singaporeans must
pay a SGD 100 entry fee to casinos on the island, although foreigners are exempt
from this. The logic behind this and other similar rules, are that they
are all in the greater good of the country and its citizens. Other laws ensure
preferential treatment of citizens: A 40% property purchase tax is levied on
foreigners but not citizens, in an attempt to keep real estate prices low. As a
result, 85% of Singaporeans own their home. 

The population seems content with this arrangement, by and
large. While sectarian tensions often
simmer, this quasi-nanny state has ensured that SG is a safe (crime is
virtually nonexistent), clean, and friendly place to live. That it has managed
to do this without citizens demanding greater welfare programs is quite
remarkable. Healthcare is a prime example of this.

The government plays a leading role in the advocacy for
sustained population health. Through heavy alcohol and tobacco taxation, and
other public health campaigns and initiatives, this policy is rooted in the
belief that prevention provides the cheapest and most effective way of keeping
people healthy (while an entrée at a restaurant can be as cheap as $2, the
local beer sells for $5-$10). 

70-80% of
healthcare is provided by the public sector. Citizens are covered by a single
universal basic coverage, although it is not free. Instead, citizens are
mandated to place a certain percentage of monthly income into a Central
Provident Fund (CPF) account, which is roughly equivalent to social security in
the US, but also includes enrollment in the healthcare program, called
MediSave. Medisave essentially acts as a savings account for each
individual/family. Medisave provides subsidized healthcare to citizens, and the
out of pocket expense comes out of the Medisave account. In this way,
unnecessary tests, hospitalizations, and medical expenses are curtailed, while
still remaining affordable. Medisave, however, can only be used in the public
health system. While public hospitals and clinics provide efficient, high
quality of care, certain things can be lacking. The lack of a primary care
provider or family doctor is an example of this. Also, the lack of risk (and
thus, resource) pooling of Medisave accounts, open the door for the possibility
of an individual incurring huge expenses for an unforeseen chronic medical
condition. As a result, citizens often purchase additional insurance such as
catastrophic/accident or pre-cancer insurance riders.

This is not to say that the poor or needy go without
healthcare if they are unable to pay. Other government programs include
ElderShield (for the elderly but only up to 85), MediFund (for the poor), and
Medishield (which helps offset catastrophic accident medical bills). In this
respect, it is not unlike the health systems of the west. However, the
admirable work ethic that pervades through the population seems to avoid people trying to take
advantage of this system and allow it to be viable.

While lacking in some respects, this structure has allowed
SG to run one of the most efficient health care systems in the world, with ~4%
of GDP spent on health care, compared with the US’ 17%.


On February 10, 2017, 6p.m., 80 clinicians, developers, entrepreneurs, and engineers watched the kickoff, listened to an esteemed panel, including Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who helped us understand the importance of social robotics. In particular, the main takeaway is to remember that technology needs to complement the human user, not replace or make us obsolete.

31 pain points later, 12 teams formed. Teams chose to tackle problems ranging from fall prevention to medical compliance to physical therapy, each team incorporating a Loomo Segway into their solution. Some teams hacked 48-hours straight from the first day to the last to get their prototypes ready for final presentations!

Because everyone used a robot, each team pitched the standard 3-min presentation but also had 2 min to demo their in front of the audience. Judges had an extremely difficult time deliberating the top 3, and here were the winning teams:

  1. Bot-ler: using Loomo’s mechanical advantage to handle challenges that involve manpower in nursing homes, including pushing wheelchairs and pulling heavy items.
  2. D.O.R.I.: inspired by the Finding Nemo character, D.O.R.I. identifies patient with facial recognition and tracks mental decline by conversing and playing memory games in order to detect and treat Alzheimer’s early on.
  3. Nurse on Wheels: extending the nurse’s hands, ears, and eyes into the patient’s home to monitor chronic patients with hypertension, which is clinically known to give rise to many other long-term health complications.

We’re proud of all the teams for using a full-fledged robot into their healthcare hacks and coming up with real solutions specific and generalizable to the needs of elderly care in Singapore. It was a great opportunity for the MIT HackMed team to learn about Singapore and some of its healthcare challenges! Can’t wait to see the post-hack follow-up for teams in a few months!

We’re Heading to Singapore: MIT Hacking Medicine Robotics (FEB 12-14, 2017) !

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  • Pioneering social robotics for eldercare
  • February 10th @ 5:30PM through February 12th @ 3PM
  • Hosted at SGInnovate @ 32 Carpenter St.

Calling developers, clinicians, engineers, designers, researchers and business managers to join MIT Hacking Medicine for the first hackathon in Asia focused on social robotics for eldercare.

On February 10 – 12, 2017, SGInnovate will host a weekend of hacking, brainstorming and building innovative solutions with engineers, clinicians, designers, developers, researchers and business people.


The MIT Hacking Medicine team will lead participants to build software and hardware applications on the Segway Robotplatform to improve the lives of the elderly. During the hack, you’ll be able to create robot assistants capable of understanding and engaging with elderly and patients with conditions such as Alzheimer’s and others.

The Segway Robot was awarded Best Robot Butler at the Consumer Electronics Show and praised as “one of the most appealing robot concepts in the world” by prestigious tech media including Engadget. At the hackathon, you will have the opportunity to try out the Alpha Developer Edition robot, which is currently available to a very selective number of developer partners around the world.

Sound exciting? Sign up to participate!

Developers, Clinicians, and Entrepreneurs are strongly encouraged to apply soon!

The objective of the hackathon is to create and grow a community of innovators around personal robotics for healthcare, mental healthcare and eldercare applications. If you belong to one of the following categories and have a passion for creating impactful solutions for patients and the elderly, then this hackathon is for you.

  • Healthcare providers: doctors, nurses, allied healthcare providers, etc. – You work with patients on a daily basis and know what’s needed most.
  • Developers: hardware and software engineers (knowledge and experiences of Android development preferred) – You can improve the lives of patients and the elderly by developing solutions together with clinicians and business managers.
  • Businesswomen and businessmen – You know what’s needed for a new startup to succeed.
  • Not a developer? Don’t fret. Each team at the hackathon must be composed of passionate people from the above-mentioned three categories. Teams will form during the hackathon event.

You will be able to use advances in AI, robotics and gaming to address important issues in healthcare, not at an incremental level, but at a significant impact level. You will use these advances to address significant healthcare problems both in Singapore and the world. These may include teaching autistic children, monitoring and interacting with the elderly in group settings or as a sole companion, evaluating patient’s activities.

The winning teams will get the opportunity to go on stage at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Asia – the conference on the emerging technologies that matter – and highlight the most innovative solutions developed during the hackathon.

On top of contributing towards Singapore’s Smart Nation building efforts, follow on funding for the winning team are up for grabs, as well as access to prototyping facilities labs and the Segway Robot Developer Edition platform available for the winning top three teams.


Robotic platform & tools available at the Hackathon Segway Robot will provide 5 alpha robots for the Hackathon teams to use during the Hackathon with full support during the event. Google Cloud apps will also be available to developers.

Participating Developers, please note:

There will be a training session on January 17, 2017 from 9AM-1PM with the Segway Robotics and MIT Hacking Medicine teams @ SGInnovate.

This event is strongly recommended for all participating developers. You will get a chance to get familiar with the Segway Robot development package and ask questions to the teams behind the event so that, come February 10, you are ready to hack! Food will be provided at this event.

Find out more about the Hackathon at:

MIT Hacking Medicine Singapore 2015

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Theme: Ageing In Place

Do you want to innovate solutions for the rapidly growing ageing market?
Integrate and enhance a variety of elderly health/wellness services to be accessible in and out of the home?
Delight a grandparent with an experience that helps them keep healthy. Bring peace of mind to the adult children and families who care for them. Seamlessly connect the elderly to their healthcare providers and family caregivers.

Join MIT Hacking Medicine in Singapore on 25-26 July!


Co-located with Singapore’s biggest hackathon ever, the solutions you and your team create this weekend will help older Singaporeans age-in-place and maximise their golden years. On top of contributing towards Singapore’s Smart Nation building efforts, $25,000 worth of prizes are up for grabs under the first-ever MIT Hacking Medicine@SG 2015.

Healthcare hackathon participants come from all walks of life! Even if you’ve never been to a hackathon before, this is the weekend to meet, ideate, and hack with like-minded healthcare professionals, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs.

Thank you for your interest! Registration has closed.
You will receive a confirmation email from us on the status of your registration. Please note that walk-ins are not allowed.
For further enquiries, please contact hazel_yee@ida.gov.sg

1st July Workshop
Missed our 1st July workshop? Download the materials and sample key problem statements here!

What is a Healthcare Hackathon?
Healthcare hackathons bring clinicians and other healthcare professionals together with a diverse group of engineers, students, programmers, designers and entrepreneurs to solve the toughest problems in healthcare. These events create networks, foster vibrant communities and have resulted in innovative solutions to complex problems. In many cases, projects have evolved into new venture opportunities for start-up companies.

Please return here closer to the event to get the most up-to-date schedule.

Time Programme (DAY 1, 25 July 2015)
8.30am Registration, Breakfast
9.30am Kick-off, welcome
9.40am Problem statements from partners
10.15am Hack 101, How to pitch
10.30am Problem pitch
11.15am Social mingling
11.45am Solution pitch
12:30pm Overview of the rest of the day
12.45pm Lunch served, Hack!
1pm Mentors available
3pm eadline for team sign up, tea
6pm Dinner served, keep hacking
Time Programme (DAY 2, 26 July 2015)
8.30-9:30 am Breakfast
10am-1pm Pitch practice sessions with mentors
12pm Lunch served
2pm Final presentations
4pm Judges deliberate
4.30pm Prize winners can be announced
5pm Refreshments, networking


Rules and Regulations
a. Within a 24-hour timeframe, participating teams are required to develop solutions towards the “ageing-in-place” theme. Teams can also choose to work on additional, more specific challenge statements (to be released at a later stage after the pre-hackathon workshop).
b. Each team MUST produce some sort of “prototype” to demonstrate their solution.
c. Each team MUST participate in the final pitching segment at the end of the hackathon.

Organized by:
blue_logo_small  HM_Intitute_Logo_Lg  SMART_Logo_withtext

An Initiative of:

Supporting Singapore Ministries and Agencies:
    DesignSG  HPB-Logo

Supporting Partners:
TiEVenture CraftOrcadesign logoSupraCopula logoLogo in Colours

Media Partner:
asianscientist-logo (low-res)

For further enquiries on MIT Hacking Medicine@SG 2015, please email Candy at candy@smart.mit.edu.

More about Hackathon@SG2015
Co-located with MIT Hacking Medicine@SG 2015, Hackathon@SG 2015 will be Singapore’s largest hackathon! Participants will work on urban challenges impacting Singapore and help ideate, code and create solutions to contribute towards Singapore’s Smart Nation building efforts. More information can be found here.