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Three doctors with facemasks.May was clearly the month to celebrate nursing, with May 6 designated as National Nurses Day, International Nurses Day following on May 12 and our third NurseHack4Health, May 14-16. It was a pleasure to join 30-plus Microsoft volunteers who supported this hackathon, empowering 645 participants from over 30 states and more than 20 countries who developed original ideas centered around improving access to care.

Truly inspiring results

Once again Microsoft partnered with Johnson & Johnson, SONSIEL (Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Leaders) and dev up to host this free virtual event for professionals of all levels – from nursing students to those with doctorates. By collaborating with software developers and using the latest technologies, including our own Microsoft Teams, Azure, Power Apps, Power Virtual Agents and GitHub, we saw tremendous examples of nurse ingenuity in creating solutions for sustainable and equitable access to quality care.

The hackathon’s results were truly inspiring, with 25 teams driving innovations across five tracks:

  • Vaccine education and delivery, especially to alleviate the impact of COVID-19.
  • Medical “deserts” – regions with inadequate access to medical services.
  • Health equity, racial disparities and inclusion issues.
  • New models and settings for care to enhance patient outcomes.
  • Open topics that increase access to care.

Accelerating access-to-care inventions

Many past NurseHack4Health attendees have indicated that participation changed the trajectory of their nursing careers or at least transformed their thinking to embrace innovation and multidisciplinary collaboration at work. Those involved in the recent hackathon have the opportunity for greater learning, professional growth and solution development through Johnson & Johnson’s Nurses Innovate Quickfire Challenge: Improving Access to Care and Drexel University and SONSIEL’s online education program for nurse innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders. Thanks to generous sponsors, 16 randomly selected NurseHack4Health participants received scholarships to the Drexel-SONSIEL virtual program to accelerate access-to-care inventions, such as:

  • CloudRx: An access and compliance monitoring solution for prescription medication to support underserved and marginalized patients.
  • Care after COVID: A comprehensive care coordination and patient engagement approach for those recovering from COVID-19.
  • Free healthcare for the underserved: This solution would use crowdsourcing and bots to connect underserved patients with healthcare resources.
  • Storia: A user-friendly personal health record providing quick access for first responders in urgent situations.

Criticality of nurses

I had the honor of joining Antonia Villarruel, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing, venture capitalist Brett Johnson, David Rhew, Microsoft chief medical officer, and 22 other prominent healthcare, academic and industry panelists who evaluated and coached NurseHack4Health pitch presentations and teams. Everyone I encountered stressed the criticality of nurses, how important they are in delivering care – yet often overlooked by tech companies. For example, I discovered that the nurse staffing process has not changed in over 40 years, resulting in assignments that don’t align with patient care loads and the demands of at-risk patients. Fortunately, a NurseHack4Health team produced Chartwell, a speech-activated solution that accounts for intense patient loads, enabling nurses more time to provide value-added care.

Microsoft is proud to sponsor the NurseHack4Health initiative, which began in 2020’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife, because it reflects our mission of empowering others, helps deepen relationships with nurses, and acknowledges that hacking is a critical component of unleashing creativity to deliver better experiences, insights and care. Microsoft nursing leaders Molly McCarthy and Kelly Robke and our U.S. Health and Life Sciences team were instrumental in the success of the recent hackathon, allowing everyone to think outside the box to reimagine healthcare, leverage leading-edge technology, and tap into the unique wisdom of nurses in the field and at the bedside.

NurseHack4Health celebrates the knowledge, skills, networking and collaboration that are part of the innovation journey. Perhaps the most fitting summation of the positive impact of the hackathon comes from a quote attributed to the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, who lived from 1820 to 1910: “Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses. We must be learning all our lives.”

Learn more

Please learn more about Microsoft’s commitment to nurses and the entire healthcare community by: