5 Things Little Girls Teach Us About Digital Health

Leatt Gilboa, 3 June 2016

In May, MI2 participated in the Digigirlz Hackathon: a 2-day health hackathon for 50 middle school aged girls from DC public and charter schools. Here are 5 things the girls taught us about creating and providing digital health solutions:

  1. The (dare I say, obvious) need for connectivity

Watching semi-kids use technology is a blatant reminder that technology is built into the DNA of our future patients. The girls effortlessly created solutions linking biosensors and mobile technology, envisioning complex algorithms that require significant machine learning and use of Google-esque data sets without even realizing the sophistication of what they were envisioning. One could chalk this up to naiveté and a lack of technical understanding, but I would posit that is too diminutive. What we witnessed, in fact, is a group of future leaders and patients who expect from us total, seamless connectivity. And we would be wise to work toward that vision in every health domain.


  1. Digital health is just as much about teamwork as anything else

In their presentation, one group echoed Donna Harris’s (co-founder of 1776) opening remarks: technology isn’t about me and a computer. It’s about having tools to solve big problems. This lack of ego was evident in the group sessions. The girls were open minded, divided labor and respected the roles of others, and excelled in communicating with one another. I witnessed skills that far exceeded those of some adults I’ve worked with professionally. This behavior led to creative ideation and a productive environment, the lesson being: don’t mistake technology-building for a solitary experience.

smart girl

  1. The Power of Relationships

It’s easy to associate an increase in technology with a decrease in human interaction. But the girls showed us that technology is a tool to amplify human relationships, not eliminate them. The girls focused on apps that promote mentorship and closer social communication than is possible without virtual media. They also taught us that relationships can move beyond peer-to-peer by including methods of asynchronous communication such as music and video. It would behoove us to remember that the relationships we offer our patients, who are going through the most stressful experiences of their lives, should be ubiquitous in the technology we adopt.


  1. The Importance of Empathy

An overarching theme in the girls’ solutions to managing stress was the need to speak with someone who understands what they are going through. As providers, even with best intentions it can be difficult to fully appreciate the patient experience but we can look to technology solutions that provide empathic experiences for the patients we serve. We can also remember a critical component of empathy: the removal of assumptions. As you can imagine, a room full of middle school girls was rife with attitude and smothered in side-eye. It would have been easy to assume the girls were catty and disengaged. But, in fact, they were highly attentive and supremely interested. So too must we remember to never assume disengagement or negativity from our patients: empathy is about assuming best intentions.


  1. The necessity of varying perspectives

I wrote the title of this post with the intention of creating a sarcastic and funny listicle. But as I started writing, I realized that was impossible…because the two days I spent with these girls was incredibly meaningful, and the list I’ve outlined here is no joke. These girls have offered perspective that is mature and wise and this highlights my last point: health providers cannot dismiss the perspective of any stakeholder, whether traditionally perceived as relevant or not. At MI2 we use creative thinking tools like reframing and analogous thinking that emphasize the need to perceive from another’s perspective. If nothing else, this hackathon proves that, just as every person is a part of the healthcare system, so too does every person have a valid perspective on solving its challenges.

…including this empowered future leader:


Dedicated to geek girls everywhere.




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