Article Image

HackED! Empowering Emergency Physicians in Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

Physicians and innovators from across the United States gathered in Philadelphia for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Scientific Assembly in early October, where they had the opportunity to participate in an innovative healthcare event known as HackED. “HackED”, a combined innovation challenge and hackathon event, was developed in partnership with ACEP, the Emergency Medicine Innovation Collaborative (EMIC), and Stanford University's StEMI X. Its primary aim is to empower physicians to become primary agents of change within their speciality, foster collaboration between physicians and technology industry leaders, as well as encourage multidisciplinary solutions to pressing healthcare issues. 

In its second iteration this year (first offered in October 2022), HackED offered two tracks: an Innovation Challenge and a Hackathon. This year’s HackED event offered a longitudinal component to allow participants to better incorporate the event into their busy schedules. HackED kicked off in August 2023, with teams coming together to attend a virtual physician-led Design Speaker Series aimed at empowering innovators throughout all steps of the design thinking and product-to-market process. HackED culminated in a dynamic 3-day in-person event at ACEP Scientific Assembly on October 9th-11th, 2023. A total of 65 participants, including physicians, trainees, engineers, entrepreneurs, and designers, joined the event, ultimately forming seven innovation challenge teams and two hackathon teams. 

The Innovation Challenge track encouraged physicians to devise pioneering models for enhancing acute care in terms of patient experience, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness, with a focus on refining innovative ideas and creating pitch decks for competition. Participants had the opportunity to build and design innovative models that address the question, 'How might we improve acute care in terms of experience, outcomes, or cost?' within the context of one of five tracks: Social EM, Health Policy, Acute Care Inside the ED, Acute Care Outside the ED, and Devices. 

The Hackathon track focused on the intersection of healthcare and digital health, centered around a 'Hospital at Home' use case. An emerging trend involves patients receiving inpatient-level care at home, which will significantly impact hospital flow; many Hospital at Home (H@H) admissions originate from ED visits. Participants, armed with digital tools and data, embarked on designing and building their solutions targeting the hospital-at-home space, culminating in a pitch competition on the final day of the in-person event. 


To create HackED, the development team leveraged insights from hackathons in non-healthcare sectors to shape the event's framework, define the challenge topics, devise a participant recruitment strategy, and outline the competition's overall schedule. 

Leading up to the in person pitch competition, the Emergency Medicine Innovation Collaborative hosted a longitudinal virtual Design Speaker Series. The guest speakers gave talks on topics such as clinical needfinding, healthcare design, business model design, health policy, and creating and evaluating pitch decks. Each session was followed by Q&A to support participants in developing their ideas for the HackED tracks. In-person events included integral work sessions, providing teams with a dedicated event space to collaborate, brainstorm, and advance their solution builds. Each day concluded with specialized office hours, where experienced coaches in various fields such as software development, healthcare, and informatics were accessible for teams to help refine their ideas. The coaches offered valuable guidance on presentation techniques, best practices for demonstrations, and effective communication of intricate scientific information to both medical and non-medical audiences. Further enhancing participants' readiness for their designated challenges, an array of diverse speakers delivered concise presentations on healthcare innovation throughout the hackathon. These talks were strategically designed to inspire fresh ideas and assist teams in refining their solution concepts. 

Development of Solutions and Learning 

Throughout HackED, the leadership team gathered valuable information about attendees' backgrounds and areas of expertise. Our participants represented a diverse mix of professionals, including physicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, and user experience designers. The event garnered overwhelmingly positive feedback, with the majority expressing high satisfaction, and every participant expressing a willingness to recommend the experience to others. 

Participants gleaned invaluable insights from the event, such as the advantages of interdisciplinary collaboration, the practical application of design-thinking techniques to real-world challenges, and the importance of considering diverse perspectives, including economic viability, in their innovation endeavors. The feedback we received indicated that the experience had a transformative impact, influencing participants' future problem-solving approaches, kindling a newfound passion for healthcare innovation, and inspiring them to continue refining their innovative solutions. 

Pitch Competition 

On the event's final day, a pitch competition featured a distinguished panel of judges who hold leadership roles in both emergency medicine and healthcare innovation. Each team selected representatives to deliver a concise 10-minute pitch to the judging panel. Following each presentation, a 5-minute session allowed for questions, answers, and feedback from the judges. 

The pitches were evaluated on multiple criteria, including the quality and clarity of the presentation, the validity and feasibility of the solution, and the overall scope and impact of the proposed innovation. The winning team received prizes, with $5,000 awarded to the top performers in both the Innovation Challenge and Hackathon tracks, courtesy of our valued partners: Vituity, PointClickCare, and Beckman Coulter. 

For the Innovation Challenge, team EXG was selected as the winner for developing a novel device to perform electrocardiograms. The Physician's Choice award was given to the Humanistic Charting Tool, developed to integrate the patient's story and voice into the electronic medical record and care plan. For the Hackathon track, the top prize went to AutoPAuth, which automates the prior authorization process for skilled nursing facility placement. The Physician’s Choice award was presented to the Harvard Home Health solution, which allows for an automated selection of patients eligible for home health interventions. 

Lessons Learned 

We encountered challenges related to participant attrition, primarily because attendees had competing obligations and activities at the conference. Several participants recommended enhancing prize incentives by ensuring a more equitable allocation, rather than an all-or-nothing approach, which could enhance the competition and allow runner-ups to also share in the rewards. In addition, participants deeply valued the Design Speaker Series, intended to empower innovators across all phases of the design thinking and product-to-market journey. Additionally, they found tremendous benefit in the asynchronous learning content, including videos and content integrated into a 'Top Hits' document, which served as a valuable guide throughout the process. 

Innovation challenges and hackathons have evolved into an interdisciplinary practice spanning various domains, serving as a catalyst for imaginative innovators to craft novel solutions to complex problems within a limited timeframe. In recounting our journey this year with HackED, a healthcare innovation challenge and hackathon tailored for emergency physicians, we not only delivered valuable training for participants but also ignited a newfound passion for healthcare innovation, resulting in several ingenious solutions to challenges confronting emergency medicine and healthcare institutions at large. We are excited to build upon this experience and eagerly anticipate the next HackED, scheduled for October 2024 at ACEP Scientific Assembly in Las Vegas!

Dr. Ngo, Dr. Dhanoa, Dr. Altawil, and Dr. Stark have no conflicts of interest to report.

Image by gmast3r / GettyImages

All opinions published on Op-Med are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of Doximity or its editors. Op-Med is a safe space for free expression and diverse perspectives. For more information, or to submit your own opinion, please see our submission guidelines or email

More from Op-Med