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Promoting healthcare innovation through challenges

May 18th, 2011

by John Sharp

Innovation in healthcare is now pervasive. To continue the wave of innovation, hospitals can now earn new incentives based on competitions. These are government-sponsored, industry-sponsored challenges, and they even have the potential for becoming business ventures.

Here are some competitions hospitals can enter to help expand industry innovation:


  • Health challenges at - These include video challenges, National Library of Medicine apps, Flu apps and more. Many offer monetary rewards.
  • Health 2.0 Developer Challenge - Developed by the Health 2.0 Conference folks, this includes online challenges and live competitions like a Code-a-thon which most recently occurred in February. The Code-a-thon is a daylong competition to build an application for improved healthcare. Winners included a meta-analysis engine, a Healthy People 2020 tracker and an epidemic finder.
  • Veterans Affairs Innovation Initiative (VAi2) - This includes everything from equipment sterilization, blue button technology, prosthetics and rehabilitation. It encourages submissions from its own employees, as well as healthcare industry leaders.

A new player in this arena is Innocentive, an online business built around challenge-driven innovation. While not specifically focused on healthcare, it does have a Global Health Pavilion, featuring challenges from cell biology to caregiver communities. These competitions promote the idea of an Open Innovation Marketplace, which is the topic of its new book.

For each of these healthcare challenge websites, the basic concept is open innovation. By utilizing competition for a financial reward, the government, NGOs, private sector companies and healthcare providers can generate low cost solutions. But the inventor/innovator needs to keep in mind their intellectual property rights if these are not spelled out clearly up front.

Nonetheless, the potential for healthcare innovation and problem solving are yet to be measured. Perhaps someone will some develop a site or app which aggregates these challenges and their successful solutions. Aggregation of healthcare innovation challenges would help inventors find opportunities that are sprouting up from government agencies, conferences and corporations, and are designed to improve health.

John Sharp is an IT Manager for a major medical center in Northeast Ohio. He speaks nationally and internationally on ehealth, personal health records, research informatics, and social media. He blogs at LinkedIn profile: Slideshare:


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