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Behind the scenes - Digital health hackathon image

Over 300 health professionals, entrepreneurs, designers and technology specialists; and a weekend to develop new digital health products and services. We take you behind the scenes at Europe's largest digital health and care hackathon!

Supported by Scottish Health Innovations Ltd (SHIL) alongside ISD Scotland, the Usher Institute, Canon Medical Research Europe Ltd., NHS National Services Scotland Digital and Security, CCPS Scotland, True Athlete Project, BCS Health and Care Scotland, the Technology Enabled Care Programme and Cohaesus; Digital Health Product Forge ran from Thursday 20 February through Sunday 23 February.

As Europe's largest annual digital health and care hackathon, it brought together individuals from a variety of career backgrounds to work on healthcare innovations across five distinct tracks: sports and mental health, social care, emergency and unscheduled care, healthcare for the homeless and cybersecurity in healthcare.

Thursday evening’s launch event saw participants form into teams with introductory presentations from supporting organisations. SHIL’s Head of Innovation, Dr Robert Rea advised teams on the requirement to think beyond the creative idea towards the technical and commercial viability; and the mentoring support that would be available from SHIL over the course of the weekend.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were given over to the teams to form and develop their ideas. Friday was the Discovery phase, moving initial ideas to more developed concepts, identifying the minimal viable product that could deliver over the three days, narrowing down the user base and scoping both the advantages and the potential risks of the team’s product. Access to mentors from healthcare and technology backgrounds provided teams with advice and support to assess the viability of ideas, potential scale and technical feasibility.

Saturday was given over to development of the idea, with work focussing on how the product or service would function in practice. On Sunday, teams worked on their presentations for the pitching session, where ideas were assessed by a panel of expert judges from the supporting organisations, including Executive Chairman of SHIL, Graham Watson.

The winners of the 2020 Digital Health Product Forge were Team Unalome with MIA (Motivational Interviewing for Adherence) – a product designed to lessen the instance of medication non-adherence, classed as “deviation from the regimen agreed with your health care provider” when taking medication.

It is estimated that currently only 30% of prescribed medications are taken correctly, at a cost of £15,000 per person, per year worldwide. MIA would provide a fully interactive chatbot for every user, using sentiment analysis and cognitive services to answer patient enquiries about their medication using NHS-approved information. It is hoped that, by providing information to reassure the patient about side effects or symptoms of their treatment, it will encourage people to take their medication regularly and reduce hospital admissions.

SHIL Executive Chairman, and judging panel member, Graham Watson, commented:

 “The ability to connect people who do not normally have the opportunity to work together is a very positive, progressive approach to identifying and solving real health challenges. I’m delighted the SHIL team could offer mentoring support across the weekend and thank the Product Forge team, and everyone involved, for such a creative, open and collaborative event.

“As in previous years, the talent on display during this hackathon was extremely high; and special congratulations to the winners - Team Unalome - for developing an innovative digital solution to the problematic issue of medication non-adherence.”

Further information

  • Product Forge is an organisation which delivers open innovation by connecting their partners to early-stage technology entrepreneurs, technologists and entrepreneurially minded designers who want to tackle society's hardest challenges – find out more on their website: 
  • NHS Scotland staff with an idea for a new medical technology innovation? Find out how the SHIL team can support you through the invention process:
  • Request our resources for your facility, to help promote innovative thinking in the workplace: 
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