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ASU, Mayo Clinic to host Hackathon for Health Innovation

3-day event will ask students, health professionals to develop solutions that reduce friction for patients, staff

Photo of a person's hands using a tablet overlaid with graphic illustrations of health-related icons.
March 15, 2022

Penicillin. X-rays. Pacemakers.

Sometimes all it takes to save a life is a little bit of innovation.

Beginning Wednesday, March 23, and running through Friday, March 25, Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University will be hosting a collaborative event at the new ASU Health Futures Center to catalyze advancements in modern health care.

Mayo Clinic Hack for Health Innovation aims to accelerate the innovation of solutions to solve everyday medical issues. The event has the overarching theme of digital transformation and secondary themes of improving communication and streamlining documentation processes.

The hackathon is open to students, nurses, physicians and allied health professionals, all of whom will engage in interdisciplinary teams to develop a minimal viable product that will simplify processes and reduce friction for patients and staff. At the end of the three-day event, three teams will be chosen to receive a grant to continue their project’s development.

Students and faculty from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation are invited to participate, and several of the college’s leaders and faculty will serve as mentors and judges. In addition, 32 students from ASU’s College of Health Solutions enrolled in the BMI 404/504 Introduction to Clinical Environments course will be participating as a course requirement.

Mayo Clinic Arizona Education and Professional Development Manager Jocelyn Pearson is co-leading the event, which will feature Rafael Fonseca, Mayo Clinic chief innovation officer in Arizona and physician lead for the Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care, as a keynote speaker.

To learn more about the event and what it hopes to achieve, ASU News sat down with Michael LeGal, a clinical resource nurse at Mayo Clinic Arizona, co-chair of the Nursing New Knowledge and Innovation subcommittee and a faculty associate at Edson College; Joan Ralph-Webber, a clinical nurse specialist at Mayo Clinic Arizona and co-chair of the Nursing New Knowledge and Innovation subcommittee; Megan Brown, a nursing education specialist at Mayo Clinic Arizona and a member of the Nursing New Knowledge and Innovation subcommittee; and Katherine Peterson, manager of the Arizona State University/Mayo Clinic Collaborative Pre-licensure Nursing Program.

Question: What is the reason for the themes being explored at this hackathon?

LeGal: We looked to the literature about evidence-based practice approaches to health care, and based on that, we thought it was important for the event to be interprofessional and collaborative in nature with a focus on emerging digital technologies, because all of that already is and will continue to play a big role in the future of health care.

Peterson: There were a select set of priorities we had in mind based upon our practice priorities here at Mayo Clinic. The first one is innovation, and the second is digital transformation. And in looking at those priorities and recognizing that the non-negotiable components of our practice are to be consistent in providing safe, high-quality experiences for our patients and achieving optimal team performance, we wanted to see what we could do as far as working toward a way to simplify processes and reduce friction between patient and provider relations.

Q: Can you give me an example of the kind of problem or pain points you’re hoping to find a solution to?

LeGal: One of the clinical pain points that I've heard of from some of the nursing staff has to do with improving or speeding up the work process behind the use of electronic health records. Another thing that has been brought up is how to get more quality data to our nurses in real time. Maybe that’s through our documentation system, or maybe that’s through a new communication process or device.

Brown: Something that pops into my mind from being at the bedside recently is a situation where we were having an issue with fluid backing up in chest tubes in COVID-19 patients. Some nurses were able to innovate a way to stop that from happening, but we didn't necessarily have a way to share and disseminate that innovation with other teams and providers. So that’s one example of a situation where it would have been helpful for us to all get together and say, “Hey, we have this problem. This is how we’ve been fixing it. It might not be the best way, but maybe we can work together and share about it or figure out something better so that all our patients are getting the same care and the best outcome possible.”

Q: There’s a big focus on interprofessionalism at the hackathon. Why is that so important in health care?

Brown: I think the example I just gave really shows how in health care, multiple people from different specialties might be having the same issue and may even have come up with different solutions for it, but because they don’t always interact, they aren’t always able to share that solution or make it better. So we’re hoping this will bring them together to talk about those issues and share their ideas.

LeGal: It’s also important to know how to market those solutions. Once you come up with something, how do you take it further? How do you make it global? I'm a big Disney fan, so I like to say, how can you “plus it”? How can you market it to make it bigger or more universal? So that’s something we’re hoping participants get out of this as well.

Q: In addition to practicing health care professionals, students are also invited to participate in this event. What are you hoping they can bring to the table?

LeGal: I will say, having just taught a nursing innovation class, that I learned so much from students on a day-to-day basis. They’re really open to a kind of innovative thinking about new ways of implementing technology. With a hackathon, you’re creating a new tech product or process, or you’re changing an existing one to make it better. And so I think that students are really able to help bring a new perspective to that, and maybe look at things with a fresh lens.

Ralph-Webber: I would agree with Michael. I teach in the doctoral program for the nursing practice, and the thought processes that we see with our students are amazing, especially with innovation. They’re really looking outside the box and considering what they can bring to the table to make positive changes for measurable patient outcomes. So I would agree that they come with a great appetite for innovation and creativity. And of course, listening to them think outside the box makes me also think outside the box and think about my own practice and what things I could change or make better.

Top photo courtesy iStock/Getty Images

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