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Empowering Nurse Innovation in the NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon

On May 15-17, 2020, Johnson & Johnson proudly co-sponsored the NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon. Together with SONSIEL, Microsoft and dev up, we convened over 500 nurses, other healthcare professionals and tech enthusiasts to help solve COVID-19 health challenges with technological solutions.
Nursing News & ProgramsNurses Leading Innovation

Empowering Nurse Innovation in the NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon


On May 15-17, 2020, Johnson & Johnson proudly co-sponsored the NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon. Together with SONSIEL, Microsoft and dev up, we convened over 500 nurses, other healthcare professionals and tech enthusiasts to help solve COVID-19 health challenges with technological solutions.

Amid the COVID-19 response, nurses have been called upon to innovate and help solve the unforeseen challenges this outbreak has posed for patients and to healthcare systems. Given this historic and critical moment, Johnson & Johnson, Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs, & Leaders (SONSIEL), Microsoft and dev up came together to host a virtual hackathon to bring nurses and other frontline health workers together with developers, engineers and tech enthusiasts to help find solutions to some of the most pressing COVID-19 challenges. During the weekend of May 15-17, over 500 innovators from around the world united on the Microsoft Teams platform to participate in this inaugural NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon.

Through NurseHack4Health, participants had the opportunity to join and virtually ideate against five focus areas chosen for their prominence in the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on these focus areas, teams were charged with creating minimally viable products (MVPS) that could be fast-tracked to further development and trial in a healthcare setting. The “hackers” divided into 32 teams and pitched ideas that not only addressed COVID-19 clinical challenges, but also have the potential to transform healthcare. Out of the many impressive solutions, the 5 winning teams by focus area were:

· Remote Patient Monitoring in Acute Care: “Hear Now,” a platform that hosts recorded messages from loved ones that nurses can play for patients on demand.

· Remote Patient Monitoring in Home Care: “Project Flourish,” a digital tool to bring telehealth to those in remote areas without the need for a smartphone.

· Patient Hand-off & Huddle: “Nurse GPS,” a method for tracking necessary medical equipment on hospital floors to improve efficiency of care.

· Data & Reporting: “Activate School Nurses,” a platform that leverages student nurses to help alleviate the oftentimes disproportionate school nurse-to-student ratio.

· Resiliency & Self-Care: “WellNurse,” a mobile application providing coping strategies by nurses for nurses to address profession-related stress.

“Nurses have a secret superpower that they may not even know – we are the product managers of healthcare and bring immeasurable value to any team because we sit between many worlds. It was absolutely amazing to have a hackathon devoted to nursing innovation, where we were front and center, bringing our problems, perspectives and experiences to the forefront,” said Joshua Littlejohn, MPH, MSN, RN, Head of Product at envoyatHome, Product Owner for Corp Data Analytics Center at PennMedicine and member of the winning Remote Patient Monitoring in Home Care team “Project Flourish.”

NurseHack4Health Virtual Hackathon

NurseHack4Health kicked off on Friday evening with an inspiring video showcasing examples of nurse-led innovation amid COVID-19 and opening remarks from leaders from Johnson & Johnson, SONSIEL, Microsoft and dev up, who reinforced why they wanted to offer this groundbreaking event – because nurses and other frontline health workers are uniquely positioned to leverage their resourcefulness and innovative thinking to define new ways to improve the response to COVID-19 and, ultimately, save lives.

Participants were then invited to form or join a team ideating on a problem they felt passionate about. For many, NurseHack4Health was their first hackathon experience, and true to the resilient spirit of innovators, participants learned and adapted quickly to develop their solutions and create incredible presentations in just 56 hours – many collaborating in between shifts and working on their pitches through the night – fueled by their passion to improve healthcare. Several of the Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellows also participated in the virtual hackathon, some as mentors and pitch coaches, and others as members of teams developing solutions.

“I was driven to participate in the hackathon because this global pandemic is impacting healthcare on many different levels, and I want to do everything that I can to help our healthcare professionals. Resiliency and self-care have already been concerns for our healthcare providers before COVID-19, but this pandemic has significantly multiplied the need for mental health resources,” said Charlene Platon, MS, RN, FNP-BC, Director of Ambulatory Nursing at Stanford Health Care, Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellow and member of the winning team “WellNurse.” “This virtual hackathon was so much more than I expected and truly symbolized to me the shared humanity that we all have in this pandemic.”

On Saturday afternoon, teams had the opportunity to test out their pitches in a special Pitch Coaching Session with nurse mentors and innovation leaders, including Penn Nursing’s Director of Innovation Marion Leary, Assistant Vice President at Hospital for Special Surgery and Co-Founder of Inspiren Paul Coyne, Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge Awardees Sigi Marmorstein and Nicole Lincoln, Director of the BARDA Alliance at Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS Rachel Rath and more. The teams received valuable feedback on their solutions and presentations, such as how the teams should start with the problem and bring the judges along on the story of their solution; understand their competitors and what’s already in the market; think-through how their solutions would fit into workflows and practice their delivery ahead of the final presentations.

NurseHack4Health offered a rare opportunity to collaborate with innovators with a wide range of professional experiences and diversity of backgrounds, bringing together experienced hackers with ideas of their own and many who have never done a hackathon before, as well as many who have never had the opportunity to collaborate with nurses.

“The hackathon experience of collaborating across disciplines really came to life for me in my first video chat that weekend when I was asked to leverage my background as an ICU nurse and provide real examples of issues nurses face daily. It was incredible to work with team members with backgrounds in engineering and business development to brainstorm a solution for helping bedside nurses get the medical equipment they need to the patient faster,” said Mary Kavalam, RN, EdD, Clinical Project Scientist in Cardiovascular & Metabolism at The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and member of the winning Patient Hand-off & Huddle team “Nurse GPS.” “It was empowering to focus on solutions that could potentially help nurses on the frontlines of COVID-19 now. I am really proud Johnson & Johnson was a supporter of this event- it was amazing to see the commitment to Our Credo in action.”

After a weekend of ideation, research and problem-solving, the NurseHack4Health teams -pitched their solutions before a panel of judges in their focus area. Some of the judges included SEE YOU NOW podcast host and nurse economist Shawna Butler; SONSIEL's Rebecca Love, Noah Hendler and Bonnie Clipper; Microsoft’s Molly McCarthy and Srini Surendranath; Johnson & Johnson's Doug Abrams and Lynda Benton, and Penn Nursing’s Antonia Villarruel.

“It was incredibly exciting to be a judge in the NurseHack4Health: COVID-19 Virtual Hackathon and to hear the impressive pitches in the Data and Reporting focus area,” said Doug Abrams, Vice President of Technology at Johnson & Johnson. “In my role, I have the opportunity to work with many teams developing healthcare and technology solutions and cannot stress enough the importance of gaining insight from the nursing community as they are the true agents of change and true innovators. Some of the ideas I heard during the weekend and their potential impact will stay with me far beyond this event, which shows why nurses are the heart of healthcare and are essential to solve today’s greatest health challenges.”

To help bring these solutions to life, the winning teams will receive access to Microsoft engineers; mentorship and coaching from Microsoft and SONSIEL; a three-month SONSIEL Fellowship opportunity; access to the Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS innovation-focused webinars, and an appearance on an upcoming Microsoft Podcast “Confessions of Health Geeks,” as well as recognition on social media channels of all the organizers.

“In the past, people have told me to forgo studying business, tech, app development or investing because it would not help with my nursing career,” said Dominique Flores, BS, RN, a general pediatrics nurse at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell in New York City and member of the Data & Reporting team “Inteleform” that pitched a chat bot that could share accurate health information to minimize the spread of COVID-19. “Joining SONSIEL and recently participating in NurseHack4Health have been some of the best decisions I’ve ever made. During the happy hour of the hackathon, someone said ‘I like to work on many things all at the same time.’ And that’s when I knew that I was at the right place, with the right people, at the right time – I have truly found people who think just like me. Nothing has made me feel more comforted than to know that I joined a community of nurses that think similarly to the way I have been thinking for the longest time.”

Although the innovators couldn’t physically be together, NurseHack4Health showed that when nurses, other health professionals, and tech enthusiasts alike combine forces, innovation truly has no limits. Johnson & Johnson was honored to be a part of both the virtual NurseHack4Health and in-person SONSIEL Nurse Hackathon and looks forward to supporting more platforms like these events in the future that will elevate and empower nurse-led innovation to not only help overcome the health challenges of today but be better prepared to address the challenges of tomorrow.

Check out more of the inspiring and innovative presentations from NurseHack4Health at

Inspired by the nurse-led innovation above? See more inspiring stories of nurse innovation and learn about innovation opportunities with Johnson & Johnson here.

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