Day 1 of the Miami Healthcare Hackathon

Day 1 of the Miami Healthcare Hackathon

01-Dec-2018 by Catherine Taylor

The inaugural Miami Healthcare Hackathon is finally here! More than 75 people signed up to join SBC and our co-host, MIT Hacking Medicine, in Miami this weekend to solve social problems that affect health.

Think: access to transportation, mental health treatment and care, poverty, homelessness, lack of health insurance, lack of access to medications, the inability to attend regular health screenings, and lack of access to nutritious food. These, among other big societal issues, are known as social determinants of health.

The Miami Healthcare Hackathon was convened to draw attention to — and begin implementation on — key social determinants of health that affect the Miami population.

No hackathon is complete without a few inspirational first words. This morning opened up with a keynote talk by Luther Brewster , PhD, from the FIU College of Medicine.

He summarized three lessons learned from his work at the intersection of community development and healthcare. Dr. Brewster’s research and programming has spanned multiple states, higher-ed institutions, and community organizations.

Dr. Luther Brewster’s “3 Ds” (Lessons Learned) about the Social Determinants of Health


Our healthcare system is rooted in the creation of distance between the moment of a physician-patient interaction and the behavioral and socioeconomic moments taking place in patients’ lives between clinical visits. Dr. Brewster called it the “white noise between visits.” A big part of minimizing the negative effects of the social determinants of health will be to reduce the distance between healthcare providers and patients — a new system of delivering data-driven healthcare to households and communities must emerge and scale.


Much of Florida’s physician community is above the age of 50, with a significant segment retiring soon. While there is a general frustration with — perhaps even a mistrust of — the digitization of healthcare delivery, it can’t be assumed that the frustration is due to a practitioner community that is change-resistant or technology averse. Instead of assuming providers are stuck in the old way of doing things, we have to assess whether the tech tools being offered are built to bolster actual patient-physician relationship needs. Physician buy-in of health tech tools can only be as strong as the tools’ value in real health-delivery settings.

Damn Do-Gooders

Well intentioned volunteer programs, such as corporate service days or school service requirements, can have unintended effects in communities despite being grounded in an intention to help. Dr. Brewster asked us to imagine ourselves on the receiving end of such programs. A system of short service periods, such as a day, week, or month with then a total exit from the community by that volunteer, inevitably leaves disconnections on the ground. Dr. Brewster urged services models to become more longitudinal in nature, with the same person or group remaining on the ground in the communities for not just a day, week, or month, but for years. “You don’t address a century-old program with a month of service,” he explained. True transformation takes time.

Dr. Brewster’s keynote gave all of us at the Miami Healthcare Hackathon a lot to think about. And, participants didn’t shy away from sharing their thoughts, either! Notably, 22 different problem statements were pitched by participants as possible issues to hack.

The first problem is pitched — kicking off 22 ideas for hacking


Problem identification and pitching


Team formation

Now, the teams have formed and focused in on one specific social determinant of health each. They’re busy at work, and we’re excited to bring you news tomorrow of their ideas and solutions. Stay tuned here and on Twitter and Facebook!


// Update: Day 2’s post can now be found here. //

Catherine Taylor provides writing, PR, and event support for SBC Scale Digital Health Miami. She has a 15-year career in communications and marketing, which has included boutique agencies, a large business association, and her own start-up agency in Miami.