Hack the world & bring pizza

Hacks are a new method of tackling thorny issues and building solutions in health. Originating in the tech/software industry they are creating a spark and debate as one of the new tools in the health innovators tool chest alongside unconferences, open space events and old favourites like workshops.

I have to put my hand up here and share my experience of health hacks over the last year. Honestly, they have all been different but have common characteristics.  That’s the beauty of transplanting ideas from another industry and thinking differently to solve an issue.   As we try out new approaches there is always going to be a time where we test ideas, fail fast, learn and move on to a way that works.  This explains why health hacks are fairly fluid as a methodology at the moment.  We need to understand the best time and circumstances to use a hack that will really make a difference in health and social care.

All of the hacks I have been part of have had a strong mission around transforming patient care and results have included an improved change model, ways of managing flow through the system to enable patients to flourish and preventing delayed discharge.  As a clinician, a patient and an innovator the power of hacks to bring about change in health excites me. Why wouldn’t you want to co-produce a solution to wicked problems with people who care as passionately as you do about making change happen?

They can be as techy as you want them to be.  Where tech really adds value is when it is used in a non-intrusive way to share what is happening in the room with participants virtually and capture learning.  A great example of this was during the patient flow hack with the York and Humber Academic Health Science Network.  Virtual participants took part in the hack from throughout the UK, USA, British Columbia and included patients and staff from health and social care.

My learning from the hacks is to create a sense of urgency and energy by importing some of the tried and tested techniques from tech hacks.  Do have an open invitation through social media and standard communication channels – you will be amazed who turns up either in person or virtually that can share a different perspective.  True open innovation! Order in pizza and keep the momentum going by encouraging people to break away into maverick groups or keep going for as long as they feel passionate to do so. Think carefully about how long your event is – there is something special about working with a group of people over 24 hours.  Have a dragons den pitch competition at the end and ensure your stakeholders or sponsors will take ideas forward straight away.  If in doubt Katy Brownbill suggests to plan it like a party.

Health hacks inspire people to work together, form their own groups, challenge existing approaches and fast track solutions that can be tried immediately in practice.  To give you a flavour of different health hackathons check out these links.

Flipboard magazines – HackHull1  HackHull2

Hackathons at The Edge

“Hackathon: How to use the concept of a software hackathon within the NHS”

“Hackathons: Saving the world from mediocre ideas”


A hackers view  


If you want to know more or need help organising a hack from a certificated health hack facilitator/Lecture practitioner please contact me via the website or @CarolLRead

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