Late last month I had the privilege of taking part in the MIT Media Lab's Health and Wellness Hackathon as a User Experience mentor. This event brought together students, clinicians, and industry professionals to collaborate on technology-based solutions to major problems in patient-focused healthcare. Each of the six teams dreamed, focused, and ultimately delivered some pretty amazing systems in only eight working days! And it was easy to envision these systems being used together since each was built on open-source components (called Indivo and CollaboRhythm) that unified data collection, presentation, and storage.

The challenge that guided this Hackathon was uniquely effective in focusing the design and development efforts on what counts: building new functionality to enable each team's specific scenario while simultaneously enriching the overall CollaboRhythm user experience. This empowered teams to create in this limited time both some pretty cool hardware and the software to engage real users in future use. And throughout the event the organizers ensured that each team remained focused on credible and compelling user scenarios that ultimately told the story of the system through video.

In this process I learned a great deal about not only the details of the medical conditions at hand (including epilepsy, congestive heart failure, Parkinson's disease, hypertension, HIV, and peri-operative care) but also the challenges facing clinical practitioners in the field when managing these conditions. There certainly is a big role for design to play in empowering each of us, as patients, to take a more proactive role in our own health care!

I'd like to thank the Hackathon's organizers--John Moore, Scott Gilroy, and Frank Moss--for inviting me to be a part of this tremendous event, all the team participants for making this event such an educational experience, and my UX mentor colleague Maeve Donohue for a great partnership.

And best of luck to all the teams in making these projects a reality!