On June 23-25 the nonprofit A2 Health Hacks will host a weekend-long event with the aim of inspiring a wide range of participants to dream up innovations in healthcare.
Ann Arbor Health Hacks Weekend is now in its second year. This year's theme is "Removing Barriers to Healthcare." Participants will tackle solutions to problems that prevent people from receiving appropriate care, from affordability to transportation to difficulties taking time off work.
Beatrix Balogh, a systems engineer, co-founded A2 Health Hacks in the autumn of 2015 with three other women who had an interest in healthcare: supply chain manager Britt Johnson, innovation consultant Diane Bouis, and industrial engineer Neelima Ramaraju.
The four women talked about what they felt was lacking in terms of developing healthcare innovations in the Ann Arbor area. They knew that the University of Michigan ran its own health hacks events, but those were only open to students.
"We thought about what if we wanted to participate in something like that, but you're not a student," Balogh says. "We wanted to learn what others are doing in healthcare and get connected."
From there, the four established A2 Health Hacks and began inviting researchers, professors, and employees from healthcare startups to monthly two-hour mini-hacks, workshops, and happy hours to assess how much interest there was in the community.
Balogh says the four wanted to do a longer event with a bigger crowd than the three dozen who usually showed up to the monthly events. Their first weekend-long hackathon in summer of 2016 attracted about 90 participants and 40 mentors working on the theme of prototyping disease prevention. This year, A2 Health Hacks hopes to attract 120-150 participants.
The weekend event kicks off with networking Friday night. Then from Saturday morning through noon on Sunday, participants form their own teams to work on various health hacks. On Sunday afternoon, a panel of judges awards prizes.
First and second prizes are entry into Ann Arbor SPARK's Entrepreneur Bootcamp program and promotion on the A2 Health Hacks website for up to one year. Third prize is a "customer discovery" program from The SearchLite, a service that helps startups and entrepreneurs in their early stages.
Balogh says none of the ideas coming out of A2 Health Hacks have yet produced a marketable product, but many participants continue pursuing innovations that help people live healthier lives. One participant, for instance, started an Uber-style transportation system that partners with a local Meijer to help low-income people get rides to the grocery store.
Balogh says that A2 Health Hacks' overall goal is to get all sorts of people in Michigan involved in healthcare innovation.
"Those new ideas shouldn't just be coming from people with expertise in healthcare, but from people with unique mindsets working together to come up with innovative ventures and ideas," Balogh says.
Registration for the weekend event is still open, with signup available on A2 Health Hacks' website.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of A2 Health Hacks.