Hacking Healthcare

By Dr. Kevin Maloy, June 2014

What happens when you teach first year medical student to code and be entrepreneurs?

Answer: Great prototypes of original ideas on volunteering in hospitals, choosing a doctor for a virtual visit, and visualizing the business health of a medical practice.

At the advice of a long time friend, I decided to teach an eight class selective at Georgetown University School of Medicine called “Hacking Healthcare.”  I would teach medical student front end web coding.  Besides specializing in Emergency Medicine, I consider learning to code HTML/CSS/Javascript to be one of the turning points in my career.  Coding let me stop being strictly an “idea guy,” and rather become an agent of implementation.  I wanted to share this ability to make ideas happen with a new generation of medical students.  Most medical professionals are great at analysis and criticism, however, few are able to create.  I wanted to teach them to create.

I had four guiding principles:

  1. Learn by doing.  We would learn by building an idea the students were passionate about.  There is nothing worse than learning by building a site for a theoretical Internet Cafe Business no one cares about.

  2. Learn something universally accessible.  I chose to teach HTML/CSS/Javascript as it is a universal language that lets your idea be shared anywhere in the world on demand.

  3. Make code like learning any other organ system.  Each programming language was broken out into the “Gross Anatomy,” or 50,000 foot view, as well as the nitty gritty punctuation  I referred to as “Microanatomy.”

  4. Leverage the awesome local resources available in Washington, DC.  Ed Tori, Pete Celano, and Steve Kinsey, my awesome colleagues at MI2, volunteered to help and bring their expertise in persuasion and innovation to the class.  Konstantin Karmazin, formerly of Startup Health and now Georgetown medical student, volunteered his expertise in evaluating new companies.

The feedback from the students was great:

  • Hacking healthcare was a good way to break away from the medical sciences and think critically about the issues facing healthcare and the innovations that could address that. It was empowering to meet physicians taking the lead as entrepreneurs and working on solving those challenges. — Elias Shaaya M’17

  • The practical skills gained during this course will be immeasurable when navigating the changing, tech-centered landscape of medicine in the coming years. — Marwah Shahid M’17

  • It was great learning about the different opportunities and organizations set up within hospital systems that help physicians transition an idea into a product. — Sam Sanghvi M’17

You can check out one idea, enabling micro-volunteering in hospitals, aka Voluntopia, here. (Please use with Chrome.)  While the site is only a prototype and therefore incomplete, one quickly grasps what their altruistic idea would be like.

[Kevin Maloy is an Emergency Medicine physician, a Clinical Infomaticist and Coder. He teaches the Hacking Healthcare selective at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Learn more about Kevin here: http://mi2.org/about/mi2-leaders/kevin-maloy]

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