Hacking for change in the healthcare industry

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In May 2014, Shawn Dimantha launched the first US-based chapter of Hacking Health, an organization designed to ignite collaboration between tech creators and healthcare professionals to solve healthcare issues. Shawn has since invited two fellow Product Management graduates on as co-organizers. Together, they’re on a mission to make an impact in health tech. We caught up with Shawn (left) and Frida (middle) to hear their story.

What were you doing before you came to GA?

FM: Before coming to GA, I was working at a speech clinic called Open Lines. I was looking for a transition into product management within a healthcare tech company and wanted to learn best practices of product management as well as meet other people also interested in either switching careers or transitioning into product management roles.

SD: I worked at a digital health market research firm called Manhattan Research. I thought product management would be a great way for me to enter the tech world, especially since I was working with products at my current company. I was also interested in starting my own company in the health tech space, which I am now in the process of doing with a team of 3 other talented folks who are passionate about behavior change and preventive health. We are still in development mode but you can sign up for updates at prevly.com.

What sparked your interest in health technology?

FM: As a medical speech-language pathologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, I was always trying to improve my patient’s lives by giving them strategies outside of traditional therapy. I quickly realized people need tools, and therapy, but mostly tools to compensate for their newly acquired impairments. Once I realized this, I quickly became interested in how to use technology to build tools for my patient’s communication impairments. This eventually evolved into learning about product management roles within the healthcare tech space.

SD: I’ve been following the space for the past 5 years, pretty much ever since I moved to New York. I was working in pharma / biotech at the time, but wanted to find a way to accelerate innovation and put consumers and patients first in a highly regulated and paternalistic industry. The tech scene in New York was just ramping up again, and health tech seemed like a natural fit with my background. I attended a few Meetups and found a group of passionate entrepreneurs that I immediately clicked with. I haven’t looked back since.

Tell me about Hacking Health?

SD: Hacking Health is a global movement and community designed to improve healthcare by inviting technology creators and healthcare professionals to collaborate on realistic, human-centric solutions to front-line problems. Our hackathons and workshops are fun, intense, hands-on events where small teams tackle tough problems in a supportive community of peers and mentors. The Hacking Health New York chapter is the first U.S. chapter! We are planning to hold a series of monthly cafes and a hackathon later this year.

FM: Currently, I am working to learn the healthcare industry as an Associate at WellNet Healthcare. I hope to dive deep into the complexities of healthcare insurance to better understand how to build products in and around this complex system. Also, I am working with a physician to build his new startup project and writing internal newsletters for Blueprint Health to stay connected with healthcare accelerators as new projects mature. I hope my involvement in each of these projects grows my understanding of the innovation in healthcare tech products.

How did each of you get connected with Hacking Health and one another?

SD: I found out about Hacking Health through my co-founder Paul Cuciureanu, who I met while taking a class on healthcare entrepreneurship and is part of the Montreal Hacking Health chapter organizing team. He invited me to come up for a hackathon in Toronto last fall, I did, and saw a really exciting mix of people building solutions to real healthcare problems. I wanted to bring the energy back with me to the U.S. and we got started in May with a great kickoff event at Blueprint Health.

FM: I met Shawn at the first Hacking Health event. It occurred to me as I sat listening to CEOs of a variety of new projects that many entrepreneurs and developers do not have a clinical perspective. I thought helping organize Hacking Health would allow me to more intimately get to know projects and provide a clinician’s point of view while helping me narrow my career focus and ultimately become a part of a disruptive and innovative project.

What do you like most about organizing the NYC Cafe??

FM: It reminds me a lot of when I used to help organize events in my student organizations in college. I didn’t realize how much I missed being a part of a group that brought people together with a common goal. I really enjoy working on it because of that.

SD: The best part of Hacking Health NYC is meeting all the passionate people who are interested in changing healthcare.

As event organizers, were there any challenges that you didn’t expect?

FM: Hosting a space! New York City obviously has its limitations reserving big group spaces, but I didn’t realize this would be the trickiest part of organizing cafes!

SD: Starting up a new group takes a lot of work – finding an audience, building a community, finding a space, etc. are all non-trivial challenges. If you build it, they won’t come.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself since starting on this journey?

FM: I can use Zapier! It was not intuitive for me at first! I’ve also been surprised at how many great connections I have made quickly with people really interested in the development of Hacking Health.

SD: I can start something! Well I knew that, but to see it come to life was awesome.

Any advice for someone interested in starting a Meetup?

FM: Get involved in a group you really believe in. I can’t think of something I am more passionate about. I want to build bridges between patients who don’t have the resources they need to improve their lives and the technology that can change that within the constructs of significant regulatory bodies. This is quite a challenge! It will always be interesting and evolving. Find something that gets you up in the morning and you don’t mind working on at 12pm at night on a random da

SD: Find a topic you are passionate about, test if it is something that resonates by pitching to different people in your appropriate target markets and launch a MVP (initial meetup) to see if there is interest. Similar to launching a product or startup, but much less capital and time required!y.

Now for a GA tradition: What’s your guilty pleasure?

FM: I can eat a whole thing of honey in a week. It’s got to stop.

SD: Baklava. I’ve replaced many guilty habits, but this one is hard to kick.

Are you interested in learning more about prodect management? Request info for our upcoming Product Management Course.

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