EpiHacks: A Unique Process for Technologists and Health Experts to Co-create Optimal Solutions for Disease Prevention and Control

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Nov 21. doi: 10.2196/34286. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Technology-based innovations created collaboratively by local technology specialists and health experts can optimize addressing the priority needs for disease prevention and control. An EpiHack is a distinct, collaborative approach to develop such solutions combining the science of epidemiology with the format of a hackathon. Since 2013, twelve EpiHacks have collectively brought together over 500 technology and health professionals from 29 countries.

Objective: To define the EpiHack process and summarize the impacts of the technology-based innovations created through this approach.

Methods: The key components and timeline of an EpiHack are described in detail. The focus areas, outputs, and impacts of the twelve EpiHacks conducted between 2013 and 2021are summarized.

Results: EpiHacks solutions include improved surveillance for influenza, dengue, mass gatherings, laboratory sample tracking, and One Health surveillance in rural and urban communities. Several EpiHack tools have scaled during COVID-19 to support local governments for active surveillance. All tools were designed as open source to allow for easy replication and adaptation by other governments or parties.

Conclusions: EpiHacks provide an efficient, flexible, and replicable new approach to generate relevant and timely innovations that are locally developed, owned, scalable and sustainable.