CNN's Sanjay Gupta to sponsor, appear at new U-M health hackathon

CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta will sponsor and appear at a new health communication hackathon event at the University of Michigan (U-M).


The U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation (IHPI) is now accepting applications from students and professionals who are interested in taking part in the jointly-run Gupta Family Hackathon for Health Communication. The inaugural hackathon will kick off on the evening of Friday, March 23 and run through Sunday, March 25. The deadline to apply for the event is March 1.


Elyse Aurbach, program development associate with IHPI, says there are already a couple of health hackathons active in Ann Arbor, including a U-M-run one for students and another run by the nonprofit A2 Health Hacks. But those hackathons tend to focus on technology, while the Gupta-sponsored hackathon concentrates on communication issues in a healthcare setting.


Aurbach says participants can pitch a technology solution to communication problems, but ideas not based in technology are welcome as well. The communication hacks can be directed from physicians to patients, from a health system to the general public, or from one medical team member to another.


As an example of a communication difficulty in the healthcare setting, Aurbach noted that medical professionals are challenged by helping patients understand that colds are caused by viruses and can't be effectively treated with antibiotics. Part of that communication challenge also includes relaying best practices for preventing the transmission of the cold virus.


Aurbach also notes that communication from one health professional to another can often use improvement. For instance, she says, making sure that information gets transferred between two attending physicians during a shift change can have a "dramatic impact" on the patient's health outcomes.


After the kick-off reception Friday with Dr. Gupta and his wife Rebecca Gupta at Michigan Stadium, the hacking part of the weekend starts on Saturday at U-M's Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building. Participants will have a chance to talk about their ideas or hear from other participants and form teams organically around shared interests, Aurbach says.


From noon on Saturday through noon on Sunday, teams will develop their ideas. Judging, including cash prizes, will take place Sunday afternoon.


The hackathon is open to students and professionals from a variety of backgrounds.


"What we're looking for is enthusiasm about the topic and a commitment to participate," Aurbach says. "We hope to get participants from lots of different backgrounds, from design to community programming to healthcare research."


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at

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