Hack into healthcare
Richard Thorley looks at why computer programmers have an increasingly important role in medical practice
- By: Richard Thorley
Hack days, hackathons, or codefests are events that see computer program developers collaborate with professionals from a variety of disciplines to solve problems faced by a particular industry. Despite its traditional use, the word “hack” in this instance means to explore in a creative rather than criminal way. This summer, programmers joined forces with healthcare professionals and were asked to solve four medically related problems at the first BMJ hack day.1 The challenges involved building apps for medical students, developing evidence based practice materials for international users, creating a “zero harm” NHS that complies with the recommendations of the Francis report, and bringing the humble research paper into the 21st century. Over 50 hackers—including some medical students—attended the event, which spanned two days. Thirteen hacks were created in total, with two of those developed by medical students receiving awards.
The medical profession is becoming increasingly reliant on new technologies. In