Hackers develop innovative treatments for chronic illnesses

A hackathon in Amsterdam. [Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr]

Medical companies are turning to hackers to develop the next generation of electronic health applications to treat chronic illnesses. EURACTIV France reports.

Hackathons are an increasingly common way to pool the expertise of app developers and medical professionals, to respond to the needs of medical sector.

Already well established in Canada, the phenomenon is now taking root in Europe, through Canadian company Hacking Health. The company’s European director Sébastien Letélié said, “Our events are taking place everywhere, mainly in Canada but also in Europe.”

French pharmaceutical company Pierre Fabre staged its first hackathon at the Castres Summer University earlier this month, in partnership with Hacking Health.

“We have been organising the Hacking Health Camp in Strasbourg since March 2014. Today it is the biggest European health hackathon and one of the flagship events of health innovation. This year we hosted over 600 people from all over Europe,” Sébastien Letélié said.

Breaking down barriers

Health hackathons are unconventional laboratories for innovation, but they have proved very popular with health professionals. Sébastien Letélié said, “All those that come to the hackathons are very open. There must be some professionals that do not approve, but so far no one has criticised our approach.”

>>Read: EU Commission champions ‘mHealth’ for chronic disease treatment

The first Pierre Fabre hackathon focused on three applications for sufferers of arthrosis: Step Up, a game app for rehabilitation, Pharmatalk, an interactive terminal for pharmacies, and Podo Up, an intelligent shoe sole that provides doctors with data on how a patient walks.

Treating chronic illnesses

According to a study called “Mobile and connected health: use, attitudes and expectations from chronically ill patients” by e-santé, many patients in France are already using electronic devices and applications to help them manage their conditions.

A large majority of the country’s patients own a smartphone or tablet, and the study showed that half of diabetes sufferers already use health-related mobile applications.

>>Read: INFOGRAPHIC: Europe losing the battle against diabetes

For Hacking Health, the benefits of e-health are plain to see. The company believes its activities save time, improve accuracy, reduce risk, improve treatments and allow patients to share accurate information with their doctor. 

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