Ever since the rise of global tech innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley and Mumbai, so-called “hackathons” have taken center stage. These team-oriented events are designed to encourage hard, sustained and focused work on a particular problem, and to find solutions for them. And with the Smart India Hackathon taking place in Surathkal recently, there’s a lot of buzz around the potential for the sort of smart technology used at this event to change the Indian healthcare system for better.
The Hackathon saw 250 attendees. Healthcare was the main focus, and the event was designed to stimulate solutions which can benefit practitioners in the field. Most of those participating were students – and this comes from the view of the organisers that there’s a whole lot of untapped potential just waiting to be utilised.
“The general belief is that there is not enough being done for the student community,” said Anand Deshpande, managing director of one of the original participating firms Persistent Systems, told the Hindustan Times. “There is no open innovation happening in colleges and even the labs there do not offer them real challenges. So we thought why not harness this energy and see what can come out of it?”
Healthcare on the agenda
With a population of almost 1.4 billion and a trend towards an ageing population, India has some of the most complex healthcare needs in the world. The Smart India Hackathon chose to focus on a number of different problems from a list of 28, which was compiled by working with various healthcare provisions institutions in regions across India including Tamil Nadu and Punjab. Significant patient experience problems – such as how to monitor the rate of bathroom usage to in turn trigger cleaning – were tackled, as well as more strategic problems. Several healthcare institutions in particular – like PD Hinduja Hospital and the NCORD Healthsystems group – are set to benefit from the work of the software pros.
In context: India’s healthcare tech scene
But while the Smart India Hackathon was a great way for some of India’s most intelligent software whizzkids to apply their skills to the pressing social issue of developing India’s healthcare system, it’s far from the first attempt to do so. International organisations providing healthcare talent, equipment and more have expressed interest in India in recent years. The Health Tech India conference, for example, attracts over 150 different firms from around the world to share expertise on the latest pharmaceutical and medical technology, while firms like Samsung have begun to fund institutions with a smart health focus.
India’s complex healthcare problems won’t be fixed overnight. But by acting in a solutions-focused way, both firms and software whizzes alike can do their bit to encourage India to become an international centre for smart healthcare.
Author: Jenny Holt