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Facebook-Like Approach to Helping Critically Ill Babies Wins Collegiate Health Care IT Challenge

May 16, 2012
Experiential / Reality-based Learning

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Stanford Graduate Students Capture Competition Hosted by UMD Smith School

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Innovate 4 Healthcare Challenge

College Park, Md. - An online platform to improve outcomes for sick babies by better engaging parents in their care drew first place in the Innovate 4 Healthcare Challenge, a collegiate competition based on radically improving healthcare through new processes that are enabled by innovative information technology applications and supported by a sustainable market strategy.

"NeoStream," developed by graduate students in the Biomedical Informatics Department in the Stanford University School of Medicine, captured top-prize at the recent Innovate 4 Healthcare IT Challenge hosted by Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

"The challenge drew 26 high-quality solutions from a broad range of schools and programs from across the country, and even a few from overseas, to answer the call to how to strengthen patient-provider engagement to improve health outcomes," said the competition's director Kenyon Crowley, Director of Health Innovation at the UMD Center of Excellence in Health IT Research and associate director of CHIDS. "The solutions were creative and most importantly, they were derived from multi-disciplinary viewpoints ranging from business and engineering to public health and medicine.”

NeoStream employs a social network approach, similar to Facebook, "to improve communication between caregivers and the parents of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, with the ultimate goal of improving short and long term outcomes for critically ill babies," said Stanford team member Jon Palma, a physician and neonatal informatics specialist for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford and biomedical informatics student at the university.

The Stanford team, that also included Hua Fan-Minogue, Ken Jung and Katie Planey, was among eight finalists that presented projects to a judging panel of industry, clinical, and government professionals, and academics, on April 20 at the Smith School's center in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C. Their $20,000 first prize includes a potential venture with challenge co-sponsor Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. "We're excited about winning the competition, and the opportunity to work with Johnson and Johnson to further our idea," said Palma.

A pair of runner-up entries each netted $5,000, including "So They Can Know," a Web application designed by Johns Hopkins University graduate students for newly diagnosed STD patients to anonymously alert previous partners; and the University of Georgia Terry School of Business team for its "Play Hard, Live Long" game-based software that calculates lifestyle variables to health-related outcomes.

Teams from UMD plus Georgetown, Harvard and Carnegie Mellon Universities rounded out the finalists, including Smith MBA students Akhil Singh and Daniel Tyler whose "OptiMantra Health" entry proposed an application serving and connecting CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) consumers and providers. Additional support for the challenge was provided by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Robert H. Smith School of Business Healthcare Business Association.

CHIDS Director Ritu Agarwal, professor and dean's chair of information systems, said the competition epitomized her center's tripartite mission of research, education, and outreach. "We drew teams from across the country that worked very hard and energetically on the incredibly important problems of fixing health care and reducing health care costs," she said. "They spent a lot of time developing new ideas and figuring out whether these are monetizable solutions. We believe entrepreneurship and innovation from young minds is the way forward." 

About the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems

CHIDS is an academic research center with collaboration with industry and federal, state, and local government affiliates, and is designed to research, analyze, and recommend solutions to challenges surrounding the introduction and integration of information and decision technologies into the healthcare system. CHIDS offers the benefit of a world-class research staff and renowned scholars in the economic, social, behavioral, and managerial aspects of technology implementation, adoption, assimilation, and return on investment. CHIDS serves as a focal point for thought leadership around the topic of health information and decision systems.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.