More than 40 teams of innovators gathered in Lviv, western Ukraine, for the first-ever Health Hackathon held by WHO in the European Region to offer solutions to the challenges faced by patients and doctors. 

Digitalization is an essential step forward in strengthening health systems and public health functions. Demonstrating an urgent need for practical digital tools, the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of war have led to an unprecedented rush to implement information technology (IT)-solutions in the health-care sector.

“The future of health is digital. Here we have gathered young minds to be among those who are now shaping it,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, in his opening remarks.

Students, health-care workers, marketers, IT specialists and activists spent 48 hours, both offline and online, developing people-centred digital solutions that can contribute to the Ukrainian national health care strategy and meet the needs of patients, doctors and professional unions. Teams generated and presented digital solutions for five health challenges, with mentoring support from more than 30 experts from the health, tech and business sectors.

“E-health has advanced over the past years, and Ukraine has been developing its IT products in different fields, including health care. We invited participants of the Health Hackathon to contribute by tackling challenges around health promotion, disease prevention, mental health, health workforce support and health-care management,” explained Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine.

As a result of the Hackathon, several ideas received financial backing, invitations of support from incubators and offers of mentorship for further development. Scally, an emotional support bot for relatives of cancer patients, was named a top solution and received US$ 3000 in prize money. Other winning solutions included software that monitors and analyses patient data to recommend further diagnostics to doctors, and artificial intelligence (AI)-based diagnosis of symptoms according to international clinical standards. Ten teams will continue to work with business mentors and WHO field experts to advance and finalize their products. 

“This event was a unique opportunity for the participants to develop digital solutions that aim at preserving and strengthening people’s health, improving communication between doctor and patient, and supporting clinical decision-making processes,” added Dr Nataliia Piven, Technical Officer (Public Health Services), WHO Country Office in Ukraine.

The Health Hackathon was organized by the WHO Country Office in Ukraine and implemented by CIVITTA, Radar Tech and YEP in partnership with experts from the Academy of Family Medicine of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Startup Fund, with the financial support of the Government of Canada.