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Last month, from September 13 -15, we were joined by more than 5,000 health technology enthusiasts in a multi-purpose arena in northern Germany. In cooperation with the University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), Merck, and Kieler Nachrichten, we (IBM Germany) hosted our third annual Healthcare Hackathon, which is Europe’s largest event for digital healthcare. Across 3 days, we familiarized ourselves with the current challenges the industry faces, their latest research, and the potential technology has to improve healthcare. There was something for everyone: high school students and families, emergency medical technicians, business leaders, and doctors. It was a perfect opportunity for a wide range of individuals to get involved. Thursday focused on the different groups (high schools, professionals, healthcare providers, startups, and students); Friday revolved around the hackathon; and on Saturday, we opened our doors to the public!


As humans, health is our most important asset, at the Healthcare Hackathon it was brought to the foreground again with the help of technology and new ideas. – Thomas Südbröcker

Digital Day – The first day

On the first day of our hackathon, 150 high school students visited us for a variety of interactive workshops. The topics included: smart apps in healthcare, smart home technology, smarter technology with ergonomic operations, and smart communication in medicine. The students also had hands-on training to build their very own robots: a TJBot, which they assembled, connected to the IBM Cloud™, and trained with IBM Watson® themselves. The learning and discovery didn’t end there, though – our visitors could also test out and control a robot who carries out operations!

For our non-student visitors, we had an exclusive BarCamp for healthcare startups. Not only was this event open to startups at every stage: from first business ideas to those ready to enter the market. We also provided the perfect conditions to network and mingle at the beach bar. Workshops with sponsors were on practical topics that ranged from how to finance a business idea, lessons learned, and creating a digital strategy. Startups had the opportunity to pitch their ideas and explain what they were looking for. In exchange, the sponsors also introduced themselves, which led to several rounds of speed-networking.


Conferences for medical professionals

Two conferences ran in parallel to the hackathon. The first was a congress for emergency medicine, organized by UKSH Institute for Rescue and Emergency Medicine. The second was titled “Yesterday there was Magic; Today, there’s Medicine”, which explored the impact of digitalization on healthcare, paying particular attention to young talents and their perspectives. Both were a source of inspiration and knowledge exchange in and between industries and their experts. Some of the hackathon participants also took part.

The hackathon

After a meet and greet session and barbecue on Thursday evening, the hackathon began. On Friday morning, Thorsten Gau – IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO Global Business Services Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – introduced the 30+ challenges. With help from 25+ IBMers from GBS and Cloud Developer Advocates, the participants used the cloud-based developer platform IBM Cloud, Watson Cognitive Services as well as our Design Thinking methods. You could not miss their speed, enthusiasm, and dedication; some teams were even hacking through the night!


There were 150 young talents who programmed solutions for the 21st century throughout the 3 days. The teams were guided by the 25 IBM coaches who helped them prepare their pitch for 21 judges. Some coaches, for example, came from Tübingen University, who gave training on how to pitch. Since the final presentations were strictly limited to 3 minutes per team, and an additional 2 minutes for questions and answers, this preparation was key to success.

This was, of course, the perfect opportunity to share the news of our global hackathon, the Call for Code, a competition which challenges developers to build solutions and use technology for good. This year the topic is to improve natural disaster preparedness and relief. Stay tuned – the external winners will be announced at the Call for Code Global Prize Celebration on Oct. 29 at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Tune in for the judging and be sure to get involved next year!


Kiel’s Digital Week

Our event on Saturday was open to the public and formed part of Kiel’s Digital Week. It was a fantastic opportunity to include everyone in conversations about the latest technology in health and life sciences and allowed everyone to explore the latest technology in health and life sciences, which was part of the event’s purpose. UKSH Chairman Professor Dr. Jens Scholz and IBM welcomed many guests, among them were many doctors, families, and children who visited from 10am. Meanwhile the hackathon teams were busy programming until midday, from creating a blood donation app to programming a robot.

IBM Challenge

We also had an IBM challenge within the hackathon, which consisted of extending the IBM Personal Health Records ecosystem and UKSH HealthHub App, powered by IBM’s electronic health records (IBM elektronische Gesundheitsakte) and Preventicus Heartbeats. Using just a smartphone, patients can use clinically-proven technology to record their pulse and detect atrial fibrillation. Check out the HealthHub App on YouTube.


Winning teams

At 5pm on the final day of the hackathon, the jury announced the winners in Frankfurt. Let’s take a look at the winning teams, each of which runs on the IBM Cloud:

  • 6th place: Emergency Room e.cademy (Special Prize Winner) Until now, there was no learning program for students learning to be anesthetists. In large classes there can be a lack of practical experience opportunities. This solution offers students a virtual operation, which explains the preparation and processes needed. Using media, this shows students the ropes and can be adapted to other qualifications and formal training.
  • 5th place: Combining fitness and genetic data Chronic illnesses often reduce movement, this team developed a fitness tracker to measure both illness and therapy. Fot the patient, they can take on more responsibility and understanding about the disease. It also provides a better connection with their physician. Doctors also benefit from a more extensive dataset and richer case history, saving time for more important discussions.
  • 4th place: Loomo This team was from Lübeck University, they programmed a solution for an ultramobile Segway for use in hospitals. The use-cases include: guiding patients, transporting goods, damage surveying, documentation, and much more. Loomo is an interactive robot and source of information, with particular potential for visually impaired patients who can easily use the speech interface.
  • 3rd place: Blood donation 2.0 (Prize: 10,000€) Only 3 percent from a potential 33 percent of eligible donors give blood in Germany. At some point, 80 percent of the total population could potentially need a blood donation once in their lives. This app motivates regular donation particularly from the 18-35 age demographic, with the goal to create reliable donors. The app achieves this through many means, for example: creating more of a community, embracing the digital world and mobile experience, and sharing real stories of the recipients of blood donations.
  • 2nd prize: Wound analytics (Prize: 10,000€) This idea implemented Augmented Reality to measure and monitor wounds objectively and consistently. Each wound is considered a polygon, with multiple edges, where the size is calculated by splitting the polygon into pyramids. The AR aspect provides plane detection and x, y, and z coordinates.
  • 1st place: Hospimotion = post-OP training using a VR game (Prize: 15,000€) The winning team developed an app offering patients a training program in which they take more responsibility of their own recovery. During the hackathon, use-cases were developed for feet and leg training, where these were designed specifically for patients recovering from knee, hip, and foot operations. Using Virtual Reality and gamification, it is easy to use with wireless setup and body markers, detecting speed and location. The app is fun and motivational, patients are well-informed throughout their time in hospital, and well taken care of. Tested by doctors and physiotherapists, the app takes existing medical illnesses into account, also the patient’s fitness level, heartbeat, and even prevents overtraining.


The Healthcare Hackathon once again brought a wide variety of individuals, organizations, and industries together to explore and experiment uncharted territories in healthcare. We are already looking forward to next year’s Healthcare Hackathon!