Vital Signs Hackathon Call to Action: Bring More Transparency to Healthcare Data

Last week, BetterDoctor’s provider data and API were a main tool for hackers at ProPublica’s ‘Vital Signs’ Hackathon last weekend. The 2 day hacking party at Chicago’s technology and entrepreneurship center 1871 resulted in innovative solutions for improving patients’ access to doctors, bringing transparency to information about doctor’s availability, affordability and above all, the quality of care.


Here’s a snapshot of the very first ‘Vital Signs’ Hackathon:

  • 40 hackers, including coders, designers, data scientists and other healthcare enthusiasts
  • 8 teams
  • 24 hours to hack
  • 3 APIs: BetterDoctor provider data API, ProPublica’s Vital Signs API and Yelp’s Fusion API
  • 4 judges
Celeste from ProPublica opening up the event. Photo by 1871/Gregory Rothstein.

The opportunity to develop solutions to improve patients’ access to healthcare providers motivated many hackathon newcomers. After learning about all the tools and APIs during the Saturday morning kick-off breakfast, participants quickly came up with creative solutions by putting together BetterDoctor’s provider data, ProPublica’s data about the doctor’s payments and affiliations, and Yelp’s reviews. The ultimate desired outcome was to build a useful tool that empowers people to make better decisions when seeking healthcare providers.

There were three different categories for winning: (1) $1,000 as the main prize including three months’ membership at Chicago’s healthcare incubator Matter, $1,000 from Yelp to the best use of Yelp Fusion API and finally, (3) a Best Use of BetterDoctor API prize. With May being the Mental health month, a couple of teams, including both winning teams, chose access to mental health care as the problem to tackle.

Mo from Northwestern University is pitching his idea. Photo by 1871/Gregory Rothstein

The Best Use of BetterDoctor API: Carebot by Team Duo

Eunice Lee and Matthew Zhang from Northwestern University built a Facebook messenger bot that helps college students find mental health services near them. Having a unique starting point based on their own experiences, the team managed to consider many aspects such as the ease of accessibility, the need for such services and the friendly language used by the bot. Eunice and Matthew were very thorough in designing their product and even managed to conduct user research during the 24 hours!

On Sunday afternoon team Duo demoed Carebot for the judges, who were impressed by the thoughtful use of BetterDoctor API including such things as the bios for each doctor helping the bot to remain more human-like. Team Duo also made good use of Yelp’s reviews, which led them to win the Yelp prize as well.

The winning team: Mental Health SMS

It was no easy task for judges to choose a winner our of all the projects. The Mental Health SMS team had a clear target, helping lower-income people to access mental health care from their phone.

The team built a text message solution based on Chicago’s bus stop IDs which provided location information, permitting the user to find the nearest mental health care provider without having a smartphone or access to internet. Michael Ericksen, Charudut Shetty and Kayne Neigherbauer pulled information from BetterDoctor API for Medicare and Medicaid status, in addition to the doctor’s address and phone number, that was delivered to the user via SMS.

To learn  more about the hackathon, check out ProPublica’s recap from the weekend and explore their Vital Signs API!

Looking for provider data? If you want to explore BetterDoctor’s provider data via API, visit our developer site and sign up for the free API key.

Pauliina

My name is Pauliina Alanen and I take care of our developer community. I want to discover new ways tech can improve healthcare, together with our developers. My passions lie in working with people and bringing transparency to things that lack it. You can find me in our meetups, hackathons and on Twitter @palan3n or @betterdoctor.