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Second Annual Northeastern University Hackathon Tackles the Opioid Crisis

June 26, 2018
Second Annual Northeastern University Hackathon Tackles the Opioid Crisis

Last month, Northeastern University’s Nursing Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NIE) department hosted its second annual Nurse Hackathon, a weekend-long event aimed at inspiring participants to think collaboratively and create innovative solutions to real-world health issues. The goal of this year’s Nurse Hackathon, which was hosted in partnership with StartUpHealth and Northeastern University School Health Academy (NEUSHA) as a part of Startup Weekend, was to address and brainstorm potential solutions to the opioid crisis that continues to plague the country.

Beginning with panelist presentations on Friday, May 18, and wrapping up the event with the announcement of first, second, and third place winners on Sunday, May 20, the Hackathon inspired innovation and sparked conversation around potential solutions to the growing epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States.

Before beginning the “hackathon” portion of the weekend, participants heard from a group of 19 professors, venture capitalists, and chief-level healthcare executives who presented on key topics of discussion, including: Diversion: How Are the Medications Disappearing from the Hospital to the Home?; Nurses on the Frontline; Policy: is it a Crime or a Disease?; and Stigma of Opioid Addiction. Each panelist presented on the latest research, digital health policies, and procedures related to the individual topics of discussion.

Following the series of insightful panelist presentations, over 40 attendees from various healthcare specialties, including nurses, social workers, pharmacists, engineers, and designers, shared ideas and formed ten individualteams to brainstorm original solutions based on professional experience and expertise to help address the abuse of opioids. Judges Clement Cazalot, managing director of TechStars, and Jennifer Jordan, venture capitalist and board member of MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge, evaluated each team’s pitch and determined a winner.

Teams were also provided with mentors to help guide them through obstacles and help them address the smallest details that come with creating a new product, while ensuring the invention adhered to real-world regulations. Similar to the panelists, mentors included a range of entrepreneurs, successful business owners, and healthcare executives.

“For 54 hours you worked towards a solution to make the world a better place, and in that period of time you got to experience that you can make a difference,” Director of Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University, Rebecca Love RN, MSN, ANP, told participants. “If you can do that in 54 hours, what can you do with the rest of your life?”

The first-place winner of the 2018 Nurse Hackathon was team NarcanRN, which ideated a concept for an application that would provide nurses and trained professionals with free doses of Narcan, a rescue medication used to treat opioid overdose victims, and immediately notify them of an incident in their vicinity. This type of notification and access to treatment would allow nurses to provide aid in a more timely manner. The application is meant to work in conjunction with emergency services, providing alerts to enrolled members every time an incident in their area is reported to the authorities and emergency medical services, and guiding members to the site of the incident where they would administer the medication and provide support to the victim until additional professional help arrives.

The team was awarded two fellowships, a blog post featuring their invention, as well as a start-up consultation and exclusive mentoring sessions to aid in continued development of their product.

“Every time we do a hackathon, it’s magical,” said Associate Dean and Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Nancy P. Hanrahan PhD, RN, FAAN, during the event. “You reach places that never were before, you have a diversity of opinions and thoughts about what it is that you are doing, and that is what makes it all work.”

To learn more about Northeastern University’s annual Nurse Hackathon, visit Northeastern University’s Nurse Innovation & Entrepreneurship website.


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