HACK/HLTH is a health focused hackathon held prior to the HLTH innovation conference happening this week. The hackathon was held in Las Vegas at the MGM Conference center and attracted nearly 200 software participants, most of whom were professional developers. With $80,000 in prizes at stake, as well as six sponsor challenge prizes, the event attracted a lot of developers with great ideas to improve healthcare.

UCSF Health was one of the HACK/HLTH challenge sponsors, along with Anthem, Intel, Microsoft, Mercer Management Consulting, MIT Hacking Medicine, and Springboard. UCSF’s challenge to was to create a compelling Connected Health application, an app that connects to multiple resources utilizing the healthcare interoperability standards that CDHI has been working to advance, such as FHIR API’s, SMART-on-FHIR, and CDS Hooks. Our prize was a six-month virtual residency to CDHI, where the winning team gets access to our EHR sandbox, as well as advice from CDHI staff and faculty for improving their app. Our challenge was 3rd most popular with the hackers, with nineteen teams accepting.

On the ground in Las Vegas, a team of CDHI engineers and data scientists supported the hackers, and our single biggest contribution to the hackathon was sharing our knowledge about how to build health apps and algorithms and integrate them into the patient and clinician experience. In particular, we instructed how FHIR, SMART-on-FHIR, CDS Hooks, and data science could be used, as well as how to build those apps quickly using the HSPC EHR FHIR sandbox and Synthea, a synthetic patient data generation tool. We ran a one-hour deep dive session on those topics that was well attended. We also had a constant stream of teams that came by to pick our brains and help them troubleshoot their problems. One of our best experiences of the weekend was the gratitude shown by the hackers who thanked us for teaching them about the interoperability standards and available tools.

And while we’re on the topic of interoperability standards, both UCSF and Microsoft gave a shout out to the Office of the National Coordinator, the arm of the Department of Health and Human Services that has been pushing healthcare interoperability standards forward. To highlight our partnership with the ONC, we invited Stephen Konya, Senior Innovation Strategist at the ONC, to serve as UCSF's final round judge for Hack/HLTH. Stephen runs Together.health, which brings organizations together to work collaboratively to share best practices, inform stakeholders, and leverage existing resources to fuel the creation and adoption of digital health innovation.

The UCSF challenge winner was Datum Health, a three-person team from Dallas, Texas. Their application aims to reduce the number of claims denied, and automatically generates an appeal letter with the requested information. This team was led by a former payor claims manager who witnessed this problem firsthand and saw the potential for this inefficient process to be improved. The app analyzes the risk of a claim being denied and examines the patient’s EHR records to determine if additional information could be added to the claim to increase its chances of being approved. The claims manager would have a report of all claims in the queue and the associated risk scores. In addition, they also have a variation on their app for claims already submitted and rejection notice received, where the app would generate an automated appeal response with the additional information requested included in the appeal letter.


What we loved about their app was that it solves a compelling problem, addresses inefficiencies in healthcare administration, and improves both the patient and hospital staff experience. It also met our criteria for utilizing healthcare interoperability standards and incorporating data science to create their algorithm, with its use of SMART-on-FHIR, FHIR APIs, and potential use for CDS Hooks. Datum Health did really well in overall judging, too, placing as a runner up and earning a $10,000 cash prize.

The CDHI team had a great time at HACK/HLTH and demonstrating our leadership position when it comes to app development and utilizing national health technology interoperability standards. We educated a bunch of people on FHIR, SMART-on-FHIR, CDS Hooks, many who had never heard of these interoperability standards, much less what they can be used for. The HSPC Sandbox and Synthea were priceless as health hackathon tools, and many thanks to both HSPC and the Mitre Corporation for providing such great tools! And a final shout out again to the ONC for helping push these health interoperability standards forward to the nation to enable the next generation of digital tools for improving healthcare.