Kainos plans Health Hack NI coding challenge to boost healthcare software

27 Nov 2012

Belfast and Dublin-based software company Kainos, which is in the midst of creating 110 new jobs, says its Health Hack coding challenge has already been over-subscribed in the space of two days.

The health ‘hackathon’ is targeted directly at the health sector, where Kainos is already helping to transform hospital technology at a rapid pace with its flagship Evolve electronic document management and workflow solution. This has been developed hand-in-hand with practising clinicians.

Organised by Kainos CTO Tom Gray and NI Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC) director Stephen McComb in Belfast next month, the Health Hack NI event will bring together medical clinicians and the latest technology and design talent to brainstorm and develop the next generation of healthcare software applications.

With weeks still to go, all places at Health Hack NI have already been filled. The social entrepreneurship-led event being hosted by Belfast City Council is just the latest in a series of initiatives supported by Kainos to harness and foster new IT talent and cutting-edge development techniques for the benefit of society.

Social entrepreneurship

Gray explained that in the spirit of social entrepreneurship, all code developed at the Health Hack NI event will be made available on an open-source basis so clinicians and technologists are free to take it further, using the code as the foundation for new applications capable of transforming UK patient care.

“Instead of simply talking about the challenges, the goal is to do something about them while all of the stakeholders and resources are in one place. This is a rare opportunity for enthusiastic and motivated healthcare and technology professionals to work together in an informal and non-commercial environment to improve local healthcare and related services.”

The event format is based on the concept of a ‘hackathon’, proven to be a highly productive way of quickly taking ideas to working software prototype. “By emphasising hands-on work on small projects that can be tackled in a short period of time, assumptions can be quickly tested, teams can be built, and momentum can be generated for promising ideas in healthcare,” Gray explained.

On the preference for open source platforms as the basis for development, he added: “Our emphasis on openness is in recognition of the fact that this is increasingly becoming the standard in the technology industry, and across parts of government. Equally importantly, openness in technology fits with the collaboration and transparency found in medical and academic culture.”

Health Hack NI, the latest in a series of innovation-led collaboration forums across the UK, will take place over the weekend of 8-9 December at Belfast City Hall. On day one, practising clinicians will present their ideas and outline challenges they face in their jobs every day before teaming up with skilled technology enthusiasts. Together they will design and create real-world apps in an intensive 26-hour development ‘marathon’ across the weekend. The final products or ‘proofs-of-concept’ will be presented to an influential panel of judges on the Sunday afternoon.

Booming software business

Having hired 140 people last year, technology integration specialist Kainos said last month it is on track to create 110 new positions this year, the company said, adding that total recent orders have exceeded €20m in value and revenues generated by the business in Ireland alone increased more than 30pc.

The company said it now has 60 openings for skilled software engineers and other IT professionals.

The company, which has offices in Belfast, Dublin and London, has added 40 new customers and 12 major new contracts of which eight are export agreements.

Medical software image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years