Your Checklist to Run an Online Healthcare Hackathon


Your Checklist to Run an Online Healthcare Hackathon

Yanira Caraza Lozano

MAY 27, 2020

Hackathons have gained relevance and popularity in just a few years. It could be said that their popularity has increased much more in the last months due to the initiatives promoted by governments and corporations to fight Covid-19.



But before that, there was evidence of how successful these events are and their ability to engage a large audience. Some of the world's largest healthcare hackathons, Europe's biggest healthcare hackathon, NYC Grand Hack: MIT Hacking Medicine and Reimagining Healthcare in Saudi Arabia, were developed thanks to the collaboration between governments, universities and corporations.

Hackathons prove to be an efficient tool for solving many issues because they gather participants from different backgrounds and with different expertise to collaborate in interdisciplinary teams and create innovative solutions under expert supervision in the course of 2 or 3 days. Giving people limited time to come up with ideas avoids over-thinking, and some researches event point out that, in some cases, time pressure can motivate people to work harder and do more, as well as be more creative.

From the mid-to-late 2000s, hackathons spread and increasingly began to be viewed by corporates and government as a way to rapidly develop technological solutions. Hackathon has proven to be an effective methodology and it also showcases agile innovation at its best, which are some of the reasons for its popularity.

There are different types of hackathons. Some of the events focus on specific platforms (mobile apps, desktop operating systems, video games or website development), a particular programming language (JavaScript, Node.js, Ruby on Rails or HTML5), internal motivation and innovation (to promote innovation of products, services or processes) or cause or purpose.


Governments and companies have carried out multiple initiatives to find solutions to current health problems, such as lack of mechanical respirators, financial sustainability to the health system and needs of vulnerable populations. Within these initiatives, many institutions have opted for hackathons to speed up the creation of solutions.

Now that some hackathons have been executed, it’s interesting to know how to organize an online Healthcare Hackathon and what are some of the key activities you need to consider when you decide to run it.

Open Innovation Methodologies

As specified in a LEAD's article, Open Innovation is the opening of innovation processes to allow ideas, technology or feedback from external partners (consumers, universities, suppliers, research institutes, or start-ups) to flow into the company.

Open Innovation promotes the use and flow of internal and external ideas to optimize the design of solutions and the exchange of information. It takes place within an open ecosystem, where ideas, data and knowledge can be combined to meet challenges.

According to the type of challenge, there are different open innovation methodologies that you can use. Hackathons are an open innovation methodology in which many other methodologies can be included to articulate creative processes, according to the IDB.

Here are some other Open Innovation’s methodologies:

  • Challenge: In this methodology, calls and events are organized to create innovative and sustainable products or services to solve a specific problem.
  • Crowdsourcing: In this methodology, a company comes up with a topic or a question and then hires or encourages people outside the company to come up with some ideas or solutions.
  • Open Idea Ecosystem: In this methodology, a fixed environment is established to innovate together with clients, partners or other experts in the field.
  • Open Innovation Lab: In this methodology, a workspace for innovation is created, facilitated internally and financed separately, it cancels the daily routines and processes of the company.
Open Innovation Methodologies

Your checklist to run an online healthcare hackathon

If you are considering organizing a hackathon, here are some ideas of what you need to consider:

  • Select the challenge(s): It should be clearly articulated. The better the challenge statement, the better the solution you’ll likely end up with. To concisely communicate a challenge, it’s helpful to write a one-sentence tagline (or a short paragraph). Finally, every great challenge provides some context to what it is, why it’s important and why the solution matters.
  • Evaluation criteria: Establish evaluation criteria under which you will select the winner(s) of the hackathon. The criteria will depend on the challenge you set and your objectives. Some criteria could be: ‘the solution really solves the health problem’, ‘the implementation is feasible or not’, or ‘it allows the integration of more institutions’.
  • Participant’s profile: Which profiles do you need to participate in the hackathon? You can invite people with health backgrounds, health-tech startups that are already developing a solution, professionals in communication, programming or some other area that allows developing a complete solution.
  • Experts: For a healthcare hackathon you will need to have the support of professionals with experience in the health sector. Extend an invitation to some professionals in this field to offer their support as mentors or experts. Invite one or more of these professionals to be a jury for the final evaluation.
  • Platform & tools: Define the platform and tools that you will use during the hackathon. You can use a website to centralize the applications of the participants and to receive the proposals. For daily coordination between participants, you can use Slack. If you decide to use Slack, we suggest you create channels for multidisciplinary groups and a central channel for important announcements.
  • Event schedule: Define all the activities that will occur during the event as well as the start and end. Share this information from the beginning through the platform you use for the hackathon. Send reminders to participants about upcoming activities so they are prepared.
  • Post-event follow up strategy: What will happen once the winners are chosen? You must be clear about the type of prize that the winners or finalists will receive. Depending on the solution, they may need mentoring with health experts, financial support or network support to start implementing the solution.
Online Hackathon

#SeekNotHide Online Hackathon

Hackathons results

What kind of initiatives were born during the online hackathons?


Solar-powered light-disinfection. The solution integrates light-disinfection into grid-independent solar generators to provide a sustainable, reliable and inclusive hygiene solution for public spaces and people in need. It was born at the Global Hack.

AnalysisMode game 2.0. This 10-minute puzzle game can be played by anyone to help researchers find a vaccine faster using AI. It was developed by the Analysis Mode team at Hack the Virus Netherlands.

Other sectors

Netsahem aims to provide innovative payment solutions to the NGOs in Egypt to turn their offline operations to eliminate the risk of infection for both workers and donors during the outbreak. Netsahem won the #SeekNotHide virtual hackathon.

Colivery is a platform that connects helpers who can aid their fellow citizens with things like buying food, going to the drugstore and picking up medication. Colivery came out of the #WirVsVirus hackathon.

TodosMásCerca is a platform that seeks to reactivate the economy through the connection between users and nearby local businesses. They are part of the solutions of #CadaDiaCuenta Hackathon.

Some of these solutions could give you some hackathon ideas for upcoming events.

The main challenge is to ensure that the solutions developed at the events can have the greatest possible impact during the current crisis. In many cases, the winners are awarded cash or participation in follow-up programs.

The main prizes in the #SeekNotHide hackathon are access to acceleration and guidance to the Seedstars World Cairo 2020 and enrollment in WUZZUF Startups Program. In the #AfricaVsVirus Challenge, the top 3 ideas will be eligible for over USD 50,000 in-kind prizes and the top 20 ideas will participate in the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, a program that will further support the development of the ideas. Also, the #WirVsVirus team and the organizers of #CadaDiaCuenta are working to create alliances with the governments and partners to support the development and implementation of the solutions.

We were thrilled to be a partner of the #AfricaVsVirus last weekend. It was a massive success and we were overwhelmed by all the effort and collective intelligence for the common good on the African Continent. - Startup Mario, Visual Partner of #AfricaVsVirus.

Organizers of the hackathon #CadaDiaCuenta

Part of the organizers of the hackathon #CadaDiaCuenta, Facebook image.


  • Be prepared for more participants than expected. Use a tool that can accommodate the largest amount of people. We used Slack in #AfricaVsVirus Challenge (we had 25,000 participants registered).
  • Be transparent. Share the schedule of activities, the prizes and the date of the announcement of the winners. It is important that both participants and the public have clear information about the entire process, thus avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Use infographics and video tutorials. These tools are very useful and you get better results than sending long emails detailing all the steps.

Final Thoughts

If you decide to work with open innovation, you should choose the methodology that allows you to achieve your particular goals. Each methodology is different in terms of execution time and resources. Your team must know the reasons why a specific methodology is chosen and be willing to get involved.

As mentioned by Science|Business, hackathons have become prime locations for networking, entrepreneurship and, in many cases, for raising funds during the crisis. These events are generating value for both the organizers and institutions involved, as well as for the participants.

We hope that after reviewing this article you have some hackathon ideas and that we can help you transform challenges into results.

If you are a government representative, we can help you with your innovation challenges through our multidisciplinary experience in innovation. Complete this form and we will contact you.

If you are a corporate, we can help you develop innovative strategies that will instil entrepreneurial methodologies in your company. Complete this form and we will contact you.

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