ASU students pitch innovative health solutions at Mayo Clinic sprint competition

Three people standing on a stage speaking to a crowd.

Members of the "Hey Mayo!" team present their concept at the Mayo Clinic Hack for Health Innovation in March.

Biomedical informatics students in Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions who were members of three winning teams at the Mayo Clinic Hack for Health Innovation took their health care solutions another step further by presenting them at the Mayo Clinic Roadrunner Sprint Healthcare Pitch Competition held recently at the ASU Health Futures Center.

Similar to the show "Shark Tank," the competition gave the students the opportunity to pitch their health care innovations to a panel of judges, resulting in more exposure for their ideas and showcasing the collaborations that led to the creative solutions for health care. One of the three teams, “Hey Mayo!,” whose health care solution is focused on helping nurses track their patients’ pain level in real time, placed third in the Roadrunner Sprint Competition.

"The whole experience impacted my growth as a health innovator and entrepreneur in a highly positive way because it taught me not only how to take an issue and develop a workable solution, but also how to effectively pitch that solution to others outside of my area of expertise," said Ndeye Yague, a senior majoring in biomedical informatics and member of “Hey Mayo!” 

Anu Sreedhar, program developer for the Office of Entrepreneurship at Mayo Clinic, said the goal of the competition is to demonstrate the fundamental value that the needs of the patient come first.

"Innovation and entrepreneurship support commercialization, which is a Mayo Clinic research priority, and keeps us focused on the next horizons in health care,” Sreedhar said. “Events like the Roadrunner Sprint are essential to providing innovators with the tools, connections and resources they need to turn innovative ideas into an entrepreneurial success. The future of a great idea often comes down to whether the founding scientists are solving the right problem, can assemble the best team and have access to ample funding to move the idea forward — some of these skill sets you can develop by pitching your ideas. I can’t wait to see their ideas come to fruition." 

Hackathon cultivates innovative collaboration

The hackathon — hosted by ASU and Mayo Clinic at the ASU Health Futures Center in March — resulted in three winning teams, each receiving a $30,000 grant toward continued development of their products or services.

Over the course of the three-day event, the students worked in interdisciplinary teams alongside nurses and physicians to conceptualize and develop innovative technology to help solve everyday medical issues and simplify documentation processes for patients and staff.

While the grants were initially planned to be set at $5,000, the student projects were so impressive that the prize money was increased to a whopping $30,000 for each winning team. 

Thirty-two biomedical informatics students, enrolled in the Introduction to Clinical Environments course taught by Dr. Anita Murcko, clinical associate professor in the College of Health Solutions, competed in this event as a course requirement. The course exposes students to the clinical environments and settings in which health care providers create, manage and use clinical information.

“Biomedical informatics students have a deep understanding of the data life cycle and learning health systems,” Murcko said. “Nurses, the domain experts, were then complemented by the biomedical informatics students’ skills in research, problem solving, quality improvement and technical savvy.”

Yague said that in addition to interdisciplinary collaboration, the hackathon helped her develop her ability to solve problems.

“The hackathon was a great opportunity to better understand what issues currently exist in clinical settings and think outside of the box when it came to brainstorming what processes could be developed to help solve these issues,” she said.

“As a biomedical informaticist, the main goal is to use data to improve health care and innovate health care processes, and if we're hoping to improve processes, then it's important to get insight from those directly involved.”

Real-world health care solutions

Each of the three teams used the insight they gained from their discussions with health care professionals to shed light on everyday obstacles — which can often negatively impact patient care.

For example, hospitalized patients requesting immediate treatment for their pain are often left waiting due to the delay in their pain being communicated to a nurse. Patients typically rely on call buttons to alert their nurse when they need something; however, nurses have no way of differentiating which patients have more urgent needs with this current system. 

Yague and her team developed a solution called “Hey Mayo!” — an app that allows nurses to track their patients’ pain level with minimal effort in the electronic health record system. They can then prioritize patients based on their different needs.

“With ‘Hey Mayo!’ health care professionals will know what their patients need in real time, without having to go into their rooms and asking, and this saves time and allows for better care to be provided,” Yague said.

Amir Elyaderani, a biomedical informatics graduate student and member of the team “Rest Ezzz Solution Technology,” found that his own personal health care experience served as a catalyst for improving patient care.

Elyaderani spent three months in the hospital in 2010 and said that he was able to get only an hour or two of sleep each night because the nurses woke him up every few hours to take his vital signs.

“Towards the end of my stay at the hospital, I was so desperate for rest that I would beg my parents to lock the door and not let the nurses in during the night,” Elyaderani said.

This experience inspired him and his team to develop a wearable monitoring device called “Rest Ezzz Solution Technology,” which aims to reduce nocturnal awakenings of hospitalized patients. 

“In other words, a small device will be placed on a patient, and that device will be directly linked to the electronic health record system … that will allow the nurses and clinicians to monitor all the patients’ vitals without ever having to disturb them during the night or day,” Elyaderani said.

Isca Amanda, biomedical informatics graduate student and member of team “Just Scan It,” said her team was focused on improving the process of electronic health record (EHR) charting by redesigning the charting workflow and enabling frequently performed patient care shortcuts on the earliest interface once a nurse logs into the patient’s record. 

“Documentation for patient care is often missed, delayed or inaccurate because nurses were not involved in the EHR charting process design,” Amanda said.

"Nurses need to go over multiple steps (clicks, scrolls and searches) to land on the intended section to document in the electronic health record," Amanda said. "It would take nine clicks on average from the start to the intended section for one patient care item. Hence, it is a burden to the providers that have to care for multiple patients and various types of care."

The improvements offered by their team would boost productivity, reduce unwanted overtime and ultimately reduce burnout.

Plans for future development

Moving forward, Elyaderani said he plans on using the $30,000 prize money from the hackathon to design a pilot study for the team’s product, while Yague said her team will use the funds to further develop their idea into a testable and marketable product.

The hackathon is only the beginning, said Murcko, who is excited to see her students take their ideas to the next level with the various entrepreneurial opportunities available to them.

“The biomedical informatics students are continuing to develop the products as part of the course,” Murcko said. “Some will continue to work with their hackathon teams through internships and receive coaching from experienced entrepreneurs at ASU and Mayo Clinic. Some may be invited to join the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator. Lots of doors have opened!”

Story by Mindy Lok, digital content producer, College of Health Solutions

More Health and medicine


Three people talk on a bunch under a tree outside

Pilot program to address HIV care, intimate partner violence in Uganda

Editor's note: This is the second in a five-part series about ASU faculty conducting summer research abroad. Read about carbon…

Palo Verde Blooms

Hot and bothered: ASU event to discuss heat and health

Arizona State University's upcoming Health Talks event on July 18 will address how vulnerable populations are being impacted by…

A man stands with a microphone speaking to students in the foreground.

ASU students redesign 'Workstation on Wheels' for HonorHealth nurses

Going into this summer, Sheetal Jha, a biomedical engineering student, had specific expectations for the internship she would be…