mHealth Hackathon, 18-20 March 2016

The MHEALTH HACKATHON is organised by Advance Healthcare and supported by a stellar group of partners from industry, healthcare and government (Pfizer, IBM, BASE, Artilium, Partena, Mutualités Libres/Onafhankelijke Ziekenfondsen as well as Belgian Ministers De Croo and De Block). Furthermore, another 30 experts (healthcare professionals, policy makers, technical experts, etc) will be available during the hackathon to offer immediate feedback and advice to participants.

The MHEALTH HACKATHON is built around 18 real-world challenges identified by top minds in the Belgian healthcare and technology space.  More specifically, solutions developed at the Brussels hackathon could 1) bring healthcare home to millions of patients, empowering patients and healthcare professionals to manage health problems remotely or from the patient’s home, 2) create new services that absolutely delight patients, making healthcare services more convenient, less complicated, less stressful and generally more delightful to experience, 3) tackle over- and underconsumption of medicine – medication adherence is still one of the biggest problems, that if solved would save billions of euros and radically improve outcomes, 4) introduce performance metrics for mHealth apps, 5) protect and further improve Belgium’s competitive advantage in clinical trials, and 6) develop novel tools for personalised chronic disease prevention, all leading to exciting new healthcare businesses.

Hack Epilepsy

Hack Epilepsy is a hackathon focused on building digital tools for people with epilepsy and their care givers.  The hackathon was first held in Brussels and Atlanta in April 2014 and was sponsored by UCB, a biopharmaceutical company with a therapeutic focus on epilepsy.  The initiative is fully aligned with UCB’s business and forms part of its quest to provide meaningful solutions to the epilepsy community that go beyond medicines.

The success of Hack Epilepsy is largely explained by (1) its focus on a specific disease, which attracted a very talented and motivated pool of developers, designers and entrepreneurs, (2) its focus on challenges that came out of intense research of people living with epilepsy and healthcare providers, and (3) making available a panel of epilepsy patients and medical specialists at the hackathon, for immediate clinically-grounded feedback to ideas and prototypes.


Sick No More

Prof Dr. Koen Kas is the author of ‘Sick No More’ (Dutch edition published 2014, English edition coming out soon), a pivotal review of the digital health field.

What if…
– Doctors would be paid as long as we stayed healthy ?
– Our smartphone would go to med school ?
– We check our body like we do for status updates on Facebook ?
– Our medication would be printed at home and our TV is switched off when medication is not taken on time ?
– We start to associate healthcare with fun, attractive and addictive ?

Sick no more catapults us to a future with a doctor who is no longer God.

A future which is 4 DiMEnSiOnAL: Digital, Mobile, Engaging, Social, iOmic-based, quantified, Attractive, Local

It introduces the ingredients for personalized medicine which keeps us healthy, via some of the most exciting, creative technological developments mankind ever came up with.

This way it is a showcase for a large series of explorative ideas from emerging startup companies and top notch academic labs.

Sick no more aims to become a guide to tomorrows healthcare, a source of inspiration for our knowledge economy and for a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Power of Sensors

For Microsoft Innovation Center Flanders, Frank Boermeester created a series of Slideshare reports exploring key digital health trends and related opportunities for technology companies, healthcare providers and patients-consumers. We took both an international and Flemish perspective, the latter based on interviews with local stakeholders. Reports have covered social networking, sensors, and big data.


HealthStartup: online digital health community

Launched in 2014, is a social network for digital health entrepreneurs. People can publish information about their projects and garner feedback from peers. The service keeps its users up to date about relevant projects and facilitates networking among users with complimentary interests.  The site currently counts 137 projects and almost 1600 users.  The platform is also used in support of hackathons for team formation around challenges.

Power of Social

For Microsoft Innovation Center Flanders, Frank Boermeester created a series of Slideshare reports exploring key digital health trends and related opportunities for technology companies, healthcare providers and patients-consumers. We took both an international and Flemish perspective, the latter based on interviews with local stakeholders. Reports have covered social networking, sensors, and big data.


Digital Health Manifesto

It’s easy to get excited about the future of healthcare. Thanks to advances in web and mobile technologies there is tremendous potential to create exciting new health services. Hundreds if not thousands of apps are being developed that touch on practically all aspects of healthcare, targeting patients-consumers, clinicians, administrators, insurance companies, researchers and healthcare authorities.

Something is clearly happening in healthcare, but a more fundamental question is, will technology enable a radical improvement in the quality, productivity and accessibility of healthcare. It’s an important question because the future of healthcare, from a budgeting and staffing perspective, is in fact not looking good. In most developed nations healthcare costs have been increasing rapidly (and faster than GDP) due to the rising costs of drug development and the increasing prevalence of chronic illness (in turn due to ageing populations). Those cost drivers aren’t about to disappear–and this while the world economy itself is suffering from chronic illness.

The future of healthcare may look exciting from a gadget perspective but there is in fact a real danger that healthcare in many countries will first get worse before it gets better. Hence the importance of the question: will technology-driven innovation be the right medicine, radically improving quality and productivity just when we need it? Unfortunately, the answer to that question isn’t simple. There are technical issues, legal issues, policy issues and business model issues to address.

However, looking at the state of technology and medical science today, it is  possible to imagine a radically different and vastly improved healthcare experience, especially from a consumer-patient perspective. It is a healthcare experience that should, in principle, be possible today if we found a way to deal with the various obstacles more rapidly.

Looking at the state of technology and medical science today, it is  possible to imagine a radically different and vastly improved healthcare experience


Let’s call this vision of a better healthcare experience a digital health manifesto (feel free to contribute to the manifesto – comment below or via Twitter and Facebook and we’ll update the text).

A Digital Health Manifesto

1. A transparent market for healthcare services, based on cost, outcomes and reputations

We expect access to a transparent market of healthcare services provided by hospitals, clinics, GPs, psychologist, life/health coaches and so on.  With ‘transparent’ we mean knowing who they are, how (cost)effective they are based on objectively gathered costs and outcomes data and how satisfied their customers/patients are. Ideally, we will be using one of several competing recommendation engines that suggest caregivers and healthcare programs relevant to my current health needs and location.

2. Access to remote/mobile health services

We expect many if not most of our interactions with healthcare providers to be done on a remote basis via online tools. This means we reduce the number of face-to-face interactions (and thus reduce travel, time spent in waiting rooms), while simultaneously increasing the total amount of time ‘connected’ to the healthcare system via remote monitoring technology and diagnostic services. An obsolete reimbursement model and regulatory framework should not be the reason why we have to sit in waiting rooms and neither should it prevent us from gaining access to more frequent and/or ongoing services that can be provided efficiently on a remote basis.  Thus, we expect access to a globally competitive market of remote diagnostic services, including genetic testing, tele-consultations and remote monitoring of health indicators (e.g. cardiac, blood pressure, sleep, etc).  We are willing to give these services access to our medical records and data if it improves their diagnostic and predictive power. And if we are chronically ill (or in need of geriatric care) we expect to stay at home for as long as is medically and technologically possible. We are willing to take more responsibility for our care, if we have the (monitoring/tele-health) tools and information to be able to do so.

3. Access to updated/complete electronic health records, medical knowledge and decision support tools

We expect our care givers to have access to the best and most up to date clinical information and medical decision making tools. These include accurate and always-up-to-date medical records, diagnostic tools, treatment guidelines and research results.  As patients we also expect to have access to such information, as a basis for constructive doctor-patient communication.  We do not tolerate medical errors.  We expect data-driven care; and we expect to have access to that data too.

5. Access to certified personal health record services, devices and wellness apps that integrate with electronic medical records and are accepted by clinicians

We expect access to a competitive market of certified and interoperable personal health record systems, devices and wellness services that can help us achieve our personal health and fitness goals.  ‘Certified and interoperable’ in the sense that these services can plug into clinical medical record systems and are accepted by clinicians. We want to take a more proactive and goal-orientated approach to our health, and we expect our general practitioner to help us in that regard.

6. All my anonymous health data available to researchers

We expect medical researchers and scientists to have access to our health records data – it is our data and it should be put to good (and meaningful) use.

The trouble with health data transparency

It’s disconcerting that the vision described above isn’t yet a reality.  It could be and it should be. The data is out there.  Also, there are thousands of developers and entrepreneurs clamoring to create powerful, user friendly health devices and apps.  The trouble is, a lot of the data while ‘out there’ isn’t yet accessible or being used optimally (meaningfully). Medical records are locked up in closed legacy IT systems. Doctors and hospitals have few incentives to share data and invest in open technologies. Current reimbursement models, privacy legislation and security concerns deter investment in new technologies and new ways of working.  A lack of standards and the fact that most new gadgets and apps are single-purpose products means that we’re not yet seeing powerful ‘ecosystems’ of synergistic products and services emerge.

Where are the platforms?

Looking at the history of recent technological progress it is clear that open standards and APIs (e.g. TCP/IP and HTTP for the web, Apple’s iOS for mobile apps, Facebook’s API for social gaming) have been instrumental in unleashing waves of innovation. Something similar is needed in healthcare. Imagine if developers had access to open or partially open data platforms that link up health/medical records, medical research data/results, treatment guidelines, and body-monitoring data.  The resulting boom in clinical informatics, clinical decision making tools, collaborative EHRs and other ‘Dropbox for health‘ type tools will put us on the path to data-driven care and likely lead to radical gains in healthcare quality and productivity. It will make our digital health manifesto a reality as opposed to a dream.

We all have responsibilities

To get there, all stakeholders in the system have responsibilities:

Policy makers need to focus on standards setting, ‘open data’ services and improved reimbursement systems (creating the right incentives).

Healthcare providers and their IT partners need to start opening up their systems and transition from a document management approach toward a patient-relationship/communication approach.

Medical information publishers such as academic journals and medical associations need to take a more innovative approach to IP and content distribution, so that the world’s medical knowledge is made instantly available to those who need it.

Startups need to think beyond single-purpose products and explore how they can plug into the existing healthcare plumbing and link up with other synergistic developers.

Progress certainly is being made. For example, the US government has introduced legislation to encourage the interoperability of health information while other public authorities are building open data service platforms (e.g. Almere Data Capital/the Dutch Health Hub).

Healthcare providers are taking steps to open up their systems (e.g. the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ blue button initiative).  EHR providers too are beginning to open up their datasets to external developers (e.g. EHR company PracticeFusion is working with Prior Knowledge to open up the dataset to developers and entrepreneurs).  And EHR providers like Avado and PatientsKnowBest are trying to build systems that are more patient-doctor collaboration tools than clinical document management or bill-generating tools.

Startups too are beginning to think about APIs.  For example, data storage and file sharing company FolderGrid is not only focused on building a secure (HIPAA-compliant) system but is also trying to create an open platform on which other IT developers can build.  Makers of body-monitoring gadgets like GreenGooseare releasing APIs so that 3rd party developers can build apps on top of their platform.

And the path to data-driven care is being cleared by companies such as HumedicaArchimedes and Predilytics who are developing advanced analytical and decision-making tools for doctors and providers.

Initiatives such as these are exciting but the digital health revolution, from a data integration perspective, is still clearly in the starting blocks. Many challenges around technology, business models, strategy and policy remain.


(Image credit:

HealthStartup Conference on Big Data, Nijmegen

HealthStartup conference III was held June 26, 2012 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The theme of this edition was Big Data; therefore we focused on startups that place data at the heart of their business model and business proposition.  These could include startups that capture, monitor, aggregate, integrate, analyze or visualize health-related data for any number of purposes, including patient monitoring, medical diagnosis, medical decision support, medical research, public health monitoring, self-tracking/quantified self, fitness tools, systems integration and so on.

The startup did not need to be ‘big data’ project in the formal sense (i.e. already collecting and analysing huge amounts of data) but it should have a longer-term ‘big data’ vision of some  sort. Our definition was purposely kept broad – we don’t see ‘big data’ as a distinct category of startups but as an opportunity for practically any health startup that is collecting/using data.  The goal of the event was to explore that opportunity in-depth.

If you’d like to know more about what we mean by Big Data and our sense of where some of the opportunities are, check out these earlier posts.

Top Big Data opportunities for health startups

Some context to Big Data – the topic for HealthStartup III



13h30 Registration

14h00 Keynote Presentations ‘Big Data’

  • Professor Stan Gielen – Stan is senior professor in Biophysics with appointments in the Faculty of Science, Mathematics and Computing Science and in the University Medical Centre of the Radboud University Nijmegen.
  • Candide Kemmler – Candide is founder of, a personal data aggregator
  • Peter Lems – Peter is founder of MobiHealth, a Dutch provider of telemonitoring solutions

14h45 Panel Discussion: Developing your Big Data Strategy


  • Where are the big data opportunities?
  • What do you need to consider when developing your big data strategy?
  • Open data – what’s happening? What are the issues?


  • Jeana Frost – Assistant Professor, VU University Amsterdam and Senior Researcher,
  • Rene Reijtenbagh – Business Angels Network Manager, EBAN
  • Vincent Dupont – Western Europe Health Industry Market Lead, Microsoft
  • Peter Walgemoed – Founder Carelliance
  • 2 more panel members to be announced soon.

15h30 Break

16h00 Startup Presentations: 5 startups x 7 minutes

Biovotion is a Swiss based medical device company, developing truly mobile and wearable medical devices for continuous, non-invasive vital sign monitoring under everyday life conditions. The first product will be a mHealth solution for patients with COPD.


Healthcare data is privacy sensitive and as such needs to be properly anonymized and prepared before it is handed over to external parties for research purposes. Content2Context (NL) develops software for the anonymizing of patient records, computerized summarization & metadata labeling of scientific research.


Promedas (NL) is a medical diagnostic expert system for knowledge and decision support. Promedas uses patient data from Hospital Information Systems as input for a smart algorithm and generates the most relevant diagnoses.


The power to deliver best clinical practice for individual patients at the point of care requires a new generation of powerful analytical tools that can operate at clinical population scale, marrying large and complex datasets from multiple sources. Danish company GenoKey claims to  have developed such an analytical toolkit based on a new mathematical foundation that could deliver these benefits across the wide range of healthcare applications.


FolUp (US) is an innovative social platform that connects patients to physicians and researchers, allowing each to collaborate and actively participate in improving patient monitoring and clinical research.