William Osler’s “Rate My App Contest” tapping student minds to improve patient care

Shel    February 15, 2016

In the Healthcare industry the gap between the providers and receivers is narrowing.  Technological advancements in particular Social Media is the catalyst of this.

Crowdsourcing in health care has become a popular trend these days despite the meticulous requirements for specialization, limitations surrounding privacy and strict governance.  It is an instrumental tool in finding patient care solutions and cost reductions that previously would not have been possible.

Barbara Prainsack (Professor in Sociology and Politics of Bioscience Brunel University London / GB), delivers an excellent presentation at at TEDxSalzburg about how Crowdsourcing is becoming more prevalent in the Medical field.  She stresses the divide between the two sides: the medical experts and those receiving the care is no longer tenable.  Dr. Prainsack explains, this is as a result of the way in which we as society use technology to communicate, and the need for us to be advocates in our own health care.

The age old adage “Two brains are better than one,” is literally meaningful in this context. The more brains, equals more ideas, equals greater chance to solve a problem or find a solution.

Jeff Howe, author of “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”, pointed out that:

“Crowds are more than wise – they are talented, creative, and stunningly productive.”[1]

The application of Crowdsourcing is extremely applicable within the healthcare industry. Whether it be doctors around the world collaborating on a patience diagnoses, or patients helping companies design prosthetics, so that they are able to lead better lives.  I believe that crowdsourcing is intrinsic to our very nature. Although, we may or may not be professionals in the field it is the idea of making a difference, that is the real motivation for most people.

One ingenious crowdsourcing initiative was the Columbia Design Challenge.

Realizing the urgency to control the outbreak, the deans at Columbia Engineering and the Mailman School of Public Health sponsored a rapid-fire design challenge to confront the Ebola crisis. The idea behind the challenge was to not only come up with rapid low-cost, real-time solutions, from concept to deployment, but also engage the Columbia community—from all disciplines—to take action, collaborate, and have an impact on this critical global issue.[2]

For more on this extraordinary contest please listen to Anna Maria Tremonti’s Interview called  “Competition for Solutions finds new ideas to contain Ebola through crowdsourcing truly ground-breaking.” – The Current : Feature series By Design (3rd November 2014)

 Listen 27:30

Dwayne Spradlin CEO of Health Data Consortium says,

“these kinds of design competitions are increasingly necessary to find the breakthrough ideas.”[2]

While researching this topic I found some interesting statistics on how Social Media has Impacted the Health Care Industry:

  • 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types.
  • 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.
  • 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x more likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions.
  • 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks.[3]

Why are these statistics so significant? Well evidently no matter how stringent confidentiality controls for privacy in health care are the acceptance of  social media for communication and collaboration is ever increasing.  This is likely due to the need to find solutions that were previously unattainable through traditional methods or due to increased urgency, such as an outbreak.  Whats also interesting is the demographics data, indicating that it will be the millennials that will be the ones driving and creating this change.

Closer to home, I found an excellent example of Crowdsourcing at the William Osler Health System (WOHS). They have found a clever and innovative way to entice young minds to rally together, network and collaborate ideas all for a good cause.  Looking for a fresh perspective the  Kiss My App Contest was conceived.

A truly remarkable, one of the first contests of its kind in Canada, Osler launched Kiss My App in September 2013.  They  challenged undergraduate students to come up with innovative ways to identify and address what they see as perceived issues in health care through the development of a mobile app.

WOHS’s challenge: “Do you think in code? Are you a stickler for clean and slick UI? Do you want to make a difference in health care?”

Even, Matt Anderson Osler’s President and CEO debuted his first every video blog in order to encourage students to participate.

“We have been completely blown away by the ingenuity and out-of-the box thinking demonstrated by our student teams, and the creativity in how they have presented their ideas throughout this competition,” said Matthew Anderson, Osler President and CEO.”[3]

Here are the finalists selected for Kiss My App’s 1st competition.

And the grand prize winner is

Atinderpal Singh Multani (University of Toronto) creator of HOSNAV App which features several tools that will help patients through their experience at Osler.

The software program makes going to the hospital much less confusing for the many people who find it an overwhelming experience. Among its helpful tools are hospital maps, parking information, a visitor navigation tool and a diagnostic appointment tracker.

The inspiration didn’t stop here Osler launched another crowd-based app challenge in 2014. This time the format was a 48-hour hackathon. High school, undergrad and graduate students from all over Canada flocked to the auditorium at Brampton Civic Hospital for an intense burst of creativity. They brought their sleeping bags, blankets, snacks, laptops, phones, monitors and ideas.

Fourteen teams participated and the result of their feverish intellectual activity was that nine managed to submit a viable app within the short time period. The winner was Outpatient, created by a team from the University of Toronto. [5]

Wow truly incredible accomplishments and congrats to all the students who took place in this amazing experience!

The contest was very well received and the ideas so remarkable it has continued for every year thereafter. Looking at those amazing apps I have no doubt these innovations will propel WOHS above and beyond in the care it delivers.

Part of my assignment was to reach out to the source of my article and to obtain some valuable insight. I was curious to see how well HOSNAV  and other apps were received by the community and what the future held for the Kiss My App contest.

This being Family day long weekend and me being myself, I was a bit concerned that I may not hear back from anyone at WOHM so quickly.  I decided to take a chance and contact William Osler Health System team via Facebook.  To my surprise I received a message back, and so promptly may I add.   Wow, now I am impressed!  To me it is this type of care and engagement I feel that sets William Osler Health System apart from the rest!

Here is an update on from the dedicated Joanne Yeung, Regional Manager of Digital Media:

“Hi Shelina, the app was really well received from both patients and staff alike.  They’ve been able to find where they need to go using the app’s navigational tools, and others have been able to direct patients by showing them on their own phones. We are running the contest on a yearly basis.  We’re in our third year now, and we’ve been tweaking the formula every year to try to keep improving the contest.  As part of the goal of the contest is to harness the creative thinking that students have, we haven’t been too limiting in our app criteria, choosing to encourage innovation and free thinking instead.  Over the last two years, the hospital has identified broader health care themes to help guide students in the direction of what our app needs are, without limiting creativity.  Some of the apps that we’ve received as submissions have been truly amazing and cutting edge! I hope this helps.”

Yes it does, and thank you once again Joanne for your continued support in finishing my blog.

For all you aspiring students who really want to make a difference here is your chance check out  http://kissmyapp.ca/ for more on Kiss My App 3.0

William Osler Health System thank you for being so innovative, it genuinely shows to the care you show towards your community. Keep up the great work!

About the William Osler Health System 

William Osler Health System is a hospital system ‘Accredited with Exemplary Standing’ that serves 1.3 million residents of Brampton, Etobicoke, and surrounding communities within the Central West Local Health Integration Network. Osler’s emergency departments are among the busiest in Ontario and its labour and delivery program is one of the largest in the province. William Osler Health System Foundation builds and fosters relationships in order to raise funds to support William Osler Health System’s capital, education and research priorities at Brampton Civic Hospital, Etobicoke General Hospital and the new Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health & Wellness. [6]

Lessons for Others

  1. Organizations need to adopt a fresh outlook when considering solutions to every day problem. Reaching out to the younger generation can help provide a new perspective and generate some exciting results as seen in this blog.
  1. Crowdsourcing is proven successful in healthcare field and it can be done effectively through social media. The many tools available can allow for greater collaboration of ideas without the barriers of time, cost or proximity.
  1. Many problems faced in health care today, such as: the astronomical costs, shortage of expertise, and the stagnation of innovation are being fueled by crowdsourcing and the collaboration of experts and non experts a like.

Organization: William Osler Health System
Industry: Healthcare
Name of Organization Contact: Joanne Yeung, Regional Manager of Digital Media

Authored by: Shel

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.