Third place at the COSMIC Children’s Hospital Hackathon

Because giving back is good, but hacking for good is... better!

Yesterday I took part, with some VisualDNA colleagues, to the COSMIC Children’s Hospital Hackathon.

Scope of the hackathon was to build an app for the young patients of COSMIC, the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) of St. Mary’s Hospital in London. All children admitted onto the unit –  the only one of its kind in West London- are critically ill and need life support.

If you don’t want to read further, this tweet summarise how it’s gone:

The challenge

This was the brief of the day:

Over the course of a day, you’ll build an innovative app/game that compels patients to provide feedback that’s simple and engaging. Unfortunately, existing feedback systems are not engaging enough for children and are very expensive.

Meanwhile, those children who are admitted are often very ill, so requesting feedback during their stay isn’t always appropriate and it’s very difficult to get children and families to give feedback after discharge from the hospital. Yet, insight from these very special patients will enable COSMIC to shape future services and help provide the best possible care.

The desired app will help COSMIC capture important information from children and their families after their stay. All children admitted onto the Unit are critically ill and need life support.

Our team

Our team was called The Bean Team (the “beans” were the leit motif of our proposed application). It was composed by me, front-end developer, Tom Warren, visual designer, Sara MacNab, product director, and Emily Barber, backend developer. It was a great team, and I had a lot of fun working with all day with them. Thank you mates, it was

Our project

Given the limited resources of the COSMIC  unit, our idea was to build a very simple, low cost solution that did not require them to implement special content-management systems, pay for storage servers, and maintain databases.

So we decided to build a single-page application (based on  Angular.js) connected to an external API service (hosted on Heroku) to retrieve the questions and the images for the survey (unfortunately we didn’t had enough time to complete the server-side code). The backend was intended to be a very lightweight application, that was simply converting the folder structure to a json file and return it to the frontend. The names of the folders would have been the questions, the name of the files would have been the responses, and finally the images (JPGs, PNGs, animated GIFs) would have been hosted on the server itself.

Not only: the folders and the images would have been kept in sync with a Dropbox folder (using an existing Heroku add-on) so that maintaining, updating or even creating new surveys would have been extremely simple for the COSMIC staff.

At the same time, the responses collected by the backend would have been saved as CSV files (one per questionnaire and user) in one dedicated folder inside the main Dropbox folder, so that also the data would have been delivered to the COSMIC team simply using the Dropbox/Heroku sync (this time the other way round), and the COSMIC operators could simply open the CSV files in Excel, copy in a main spreadsheet and then elaborate the data in that file.

The result

In just one day we have designed and built a system that could be hosted and immediately actioned across the COSMIC patient communication channels via a click of a url. Our solution was visually engaging, sensitive, value for money and extremely easy to use for families, hospital staff and hospital data analysts.

During the presentation of our solution to all the other attendees (while the judging panel was closed in a room, voting for the winners) we received a lot of positive feedbacks, thanks especially to the amazing illustrations made by Tom Warren used to animate the talking beans.

Here you can see a demo video of the application:

Finally the jury came out, and announced the winners: we were at the third place (out of 14 submissions) and we were incredibly happy, as you can see from the picture above.

It was such a great day, a wonderful experience (and a good training for my “hacker’s attitude”). As always, when you do something for good you receive more than what you give.


=== Links ===

Some information on the hackathon here:

demo: http://cosmic.didoo.net

hackaton: http://cosmichackathon.challengepost.com

winners: http://cosmichackathon.challengepost.com/submissions

the project file: http://challengepost.com/software/you-ve-bean-in-our-thoughts

frontend repo: https://github.com/didoo/cosmic-hackathon

backend repo: https://github.com/ebar/cosmic-hackathon

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