By Lauren LeungThis spring, UC Berkeley’s Fung Institute and UCSF came together to create iHackHealth, an appathon focused on addressing pressing needs in the healthcare field. For the inaugural 2020 event, 13 proposals were chosen out of over 40 submitted by the UCSF community regarding problems they encountered in their work or communities that they thought could be addressed by an iOS app. Proposals covered a wide range of issues, from the price transparency of medication to volunteer coordination and scheduling to the tracking of chemotherapy side effects. Berkeley undergraduate and graduate students signed up to work on teams with the UCSF principal investigators (PI) to bring these ideas to life. Derek Harmon, Associate Professor at UCSF and Director of the Anatomy Learning Center, was one of the organizers of the event. “My original goal behind creating the iHackHealth Appathon was to bring together individuals from two seemingly different worlds — clinicians and Computer Science and Engineering students,” said Derek. “I knew that numerous problems in the world of healthcare could be addressed through software development and that engineering students are eager to gain experience in developing software on popular platforms, particularly when solving real-world problems.” Julie McShane, Director of Career Development and Alumni Relations at the Fung Institute, added, “The opportunity to work on a pressing challenge that industry or society is facing is a unique experience to be able to give students. We aim to mimic real life scenarios where students gain experience working on interdisciplinary teams and learn to collaborate and problem solve outside of the classroom.” The teams ideated on the proposals over the course of three weeks. On March 4, Berkeley engineers and practitioners from UCSF gathered at UCSF’s Parnassus campus to pitch their final apps to a panel of distinguished industry and university leaders for a grand prize of a coveted spot in UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck Incubator Track and an exclusive tour of Apple Park. After thorough deliberation, the judges chose the top three groups.
1st place: iHITThe first place team developed an app called “iHIT,” which stands for “iPhone Head Impulse Test.” This app replaces the expensive medical testing equipment (approximately $25,000 per unit) that is currently used to detect potential deficits in a patient’s vestibular system through eye-tracking. The app tracks the location of a patient’s pupils and records that movement immediately into a plotted graph for the clinicians to analyze. This app will increase the accessibility of testing for balance-related vestibular issues, help clinics save money by not having to purchase expensive equipment, and simplify the user flow for the clinician, making rapid and accurate interpretation easy.
2nd place: RetainerByteThe second-place team developed an app called “RetainerByte,” which connects to a novel Bluetooth-embedded retainer and tracks usage of the retainer. This app would allow orthodontists to monitor patients’ use of retainers and to communicate directly with them. This could greatly increase compliance and overall dental health in patients.
3rd place: Pancreatitis AssistantThe third-place team developed an app called “Pancreatitis Assistant” that provides parents of children suffering from pancreatitis a one-stop resource for reliable information about the disease, improving their health literacy and leading to better care for their children. “Most hackathons are a one or two day sprint–it’s fast, teams build things quickly, but teams don’t have time to think deeply about the problem space and iterate, said Grace Lam, a member of iHit and a freshman student studying Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences and business administration. “iHackHealth was different because we worked for three weeks with team members and mentors, and we had time to research the area, understand the issue we are solving, and collaborate effectively to reach the end goal. It’s been a meaningful journey and I’m excited to make our product a reality.” Grace’s teammates, sophomore Andrew Che and senior Alex Li were in agreement about the value of working with a diverse team. “It was amazing to see how through the collaboration of different fields we were able to quickly contribute to both in a meaningful way,”said Andrew. Alex added, “With such a diverse team in terms of majors and skillsets, it felt so fulfilling to build and work on an application with such a direct purpose and impact on our community.” “The prototypes that the teams were able to put together at the end of the short competition were really incredible,” said Derek. “I cannot wait to see what the teams will create in future iterations of the competition.” Julie added, “I am always amazed by the impact UC Berkeley students are able to create in such a short amount of time!”
“With such a diverse team in terms of majors and skillsets, it felt so fulfilling to build and work on an application with such a direct purpose and impact on our community.”
About iHackHealthUCSF practitioners proposed mobile app ideas to improve research, clinical practice, patient care and education, and overall community health. UC Berkeley students (both undergraduate and graduate) worked in interdisciplinary teams to develop these mobile apps as iOS prototypes together with support from these medical professionals.
iHackHealth: UC Berkeley and UCSF hold inaugural cross-bay appathon event was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.