Stephen Klasko: “Health Hack Defines What’s Different About Jefferson”

The university's highly-anticipated Health Hack is this weekend.

Stephen Klasko (left) with 2015 Health Hack winner CubeSmart and IBX sponsors. Photo courtesy of Jefferson University.

Stephen Klasko (left) with 2015 Health Hack winner CubeSmart and IBX sponsors. Photo courtesy of Jefferson University.

Jefferson’s at it again. This weekend marks the university’s second ever health hack—a weekend-long event where more than 300 people will collaborate to try and solve healthcare’s most pressing challenges.

Beginning Friday evening, the hackathon’s participants, a medley of programmers, nurses, students, engineers, doctors and academics, will take on problems in this year’s three focus areas: patient engagement, connected health and virtual and augmented reality.

“The health hack defines what’s different about Jefferson,” said Stephen Klasko, Jefferson’s president and CEO, who’s partnered with the city’s leading health insurance organization Independence Blue Cross for the event.

“The difference with us is we’re a 194-year-old institution that’s trying to act like an adolescent,” Klasko told Philadelphia magazine. “Our mission is to reimagine healthcare education and discovery to create value. So everything we look at, we start to reimagine,” said Klasko.

And teams will be pushed to reimagine what’s possible in the healthcare landscape. Participants will have a chance to win a total of $20,000 in prize money for their projects, and they’ll have mentors guiding their ideas and workshops structured to sharpen their thinking. They’ll also have access to NextFab’s prototyping studio in South Philly and Ultimaker desktop 3-D printers.

Teams will have to get creative. On the patient engagement track, attendees will be tasked with developing solutions to involve patients in the design of treatments, devices and services. “It’s not a secret that the human experience in the health system is not awesome,” said Klasko. So the hack wants teams to develop pathways for positive care experiences. Similarly, the connected health track will move hackers to pitch tech like wearables and mobile apps that can help patients better self-manage their care. Teams in the virtual and augmented reality competition will focus on how these new technologies can advance medical education.

Last year’s teams developed projects in the wearables, readmissions, and drones categories. The winning teams developed a service to empower amputees to build their own prosthetic limbs, pitched drones to search for natural disaster victims, and the built the CareCube—a 3-D printed cube that can track a patient’s emotions remotely.

To Klasko, it’s refreshing to know that Jefferson isn’t just partnering with Independence on some boring insurance product.

“We’re trying to become a cluster of innovation in a chain reaction. To have a chain reaction you have to have a lot of things happening at once,” Klasko said. “I think that’s what’s beginning to happen. The hackathon is a part of that chain reaction.”

And Jefferson’s plan to merge with Philadelphia University is certainly another event in the chain.

If you’re interested in getting your hack on this weekend, it’s not too late! Walk-ins are welcome. Find more details here.

Follow @fabiolacineas on Twitter.