Teams of student and professional developers signed up to compete with each other in the Hokie Health Code-a-thon 2012, which was held on Friday, April 13th, in Blacksburg, Virginia. The goal of the competition was to create innovative software solutions that would help improve healthcare. The event was hosted at TechPad in Blacksburg and was organized as a partnership between Health 2.0, which is working with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) under the auspices of the Investing in Innovation (i2) Initiative, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council and TechPad. To date Health 2.0 has run 15 such competitions since 2010, with a goal of running eight more this year.
The challenge of the code-a-thon involved not only creativity but also stamina. It allowed for 24 hours of continuous coding. Eleven teams participated. The teams came in with a blank slate and were tasked to start work on a completely new domain and a totally foreign set of data. The only single-person team was Hussein Ahmed, a software engineer at VTLS Inc. in Blacksburg. He single handedly won the grand prize with his application "HeyRecall."
According to the TechPad website the winning entry, "HeyRecall", is a subscription-based service that continually synchronizes with the FDA.gov recall data. When users opt for the service they set an alert profile made up of conditions, which if satisfied by any of the upcoming FDA recalls, will trigger notifications. The notifications are sent to the users' email and cell phone as text messages. The service allows users to take advantage of valuable data for the safety of their families.
Dr. Hussein notes, "In addition to offering better accessibility, the application gives the user the capability to set up a personal alert profile to include anything that he would be interested to know about if there were any recalls issued. An example would be a family with kids that have certain allergies to specific things like eggs or gluten. With an alert profile in place, with every data synchronization operation to FDA's updated data, the application checks to see if there are any new recalls that match any users of the application. If any user alerts match, the application sends out an email and a text message (SMS) to the users immediately, alerting them of the new product recall that might be of a threat to them."
The criteria used to evaluate the entries for the event was announced publicly. 40 percent of the points went to the incorporation of health data, 20 percent to creativity and innovation, 20 percent to productivity, and 20 percent to the presentation of the application itself. The grand prize was $2,500; five additional prizes of $500 each were also rewarded.
Aneesh Chopra, senior advisor of The Advisory Board Company and former White House Chief Technology Officer said,"Dr. Hussein's innovative application exemplified everything we know to be true about our nation's ability to invent its way to a better healthcare delivery system – an entrepreneur with access to open data and a vision for an empowered consumer delivered a near-commercial ready service that will help protect the nation's public health."
Dr. Vinod Chachra, president and CEO of VTLS Inc., said, "I am delighted to see that Hussein performed so well, especially as a single member team. He is an energetic individual with a lot of initiative. We, at VTLS, are indeed proud of him."
About VTLS Inc.
VTLS Inc. (www.vtls.com), a leading library automation company in business for over 30 years, provides visionary technology in library solutions to a diverse customer base of more than 900 libraries in over 32 countries. Virtua is our premier ILS solution, Visualizer is our facet-based data discovery tool, Fastrac is our RFID technology, and we also provide cutting edge software and services for Digital Libraries with Digital Imaging and VITAL, our Digital Asset Management solution. VTLS is one of the few ISO 9001:2008 quality certified companies within the library industry.