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Hacking Health gives Australian events a booster shot

This week, the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre was the place to be for anyone working at the intersection of tech and healthcare.

The Heathcare Informatics Conference (HIC) had three days worth of guest speakers and workshops, along with an exhibition hall featuring products and services for healthcare from technology providers companies such as UXC and Telstra. I attended the conference, but had the chance to participate in a very different way.

For the first time, a health-focussed hackathon was incorporated into the HIC event. Hacking Health was run out of a section of the exhibition hall – a VIP area, if you will – and gave participants Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to pick problems, form teams, and present their solutions to the judges.

If you’ve been to a hackathon, that programme may sound familiar, but in fact, Hacking Health is the kind of event Brisbane needs more of.


For starters, the event was on at the right time and in the right place. Running a healthcare hack alongside a national health tech conference goes a long way towards making the event relevant for the industry, as well as for entrepreneurs.

Holding the hackathon inside the main hall put it right in front of conference attendees, who couldn’t help but come to take a look. After all, nothing piques people’s curiosity like a roped off area at a function.

Involving Industry

Attracting people from the industry is a crucial component for these events. So often at our hackathons, the people who really need to see the solutions being created simply aren’t there.

Innovation should never be the exclusive province of startups and new businesses – innovation is about existing businesses, too.

But the industry involvement wasn’t limited to conference-goers having a stickybeak. The list of nearly 30 problems that teams could pick from was written almost entirely by healthcare industry players. Doctors, researchers, and hospital administrators pitched problems alongside the University of Queensland and corporates like Bupa and Sonic Healthcare.

Rather than sitting back and waiting to see the teams’ presentations, the industry professionals were excited to take part in solving their own problems, offering advice, context, and specialist knowledge.

Global Reach

While participants were working alongside industry, the event itself brought Brisbane closer to the rest of the world. The team behind Hacking Health is actually a Canadian organisation, which runs hackathons at healthcare conferences around the world. Their network includes chapters in Paris, New York, and Hong Kong, and I would love to see Brisbane added to that list.

Running innovation events with a global affiliation instantly expands the opportunities for those who take part. It gives them access to a wider network of talented people who are motivated to solve the same kinds of problems.

And when the time comes to look for pilot customers, or even investors, being involved in an event with a worldwide footprint lends more credibility and opens many more doors.

The Bottom Line

This first Hacking Health was a big win for Brisbane, although there’s no need to limit ourselves to healthcare. Because while entrepreneurs in Brisbane should work together, it’s also important to get in front of the people whose industries our technology will change. Earning their interest can be far more valuable than impressing our peers.

Australia doesn’t have a corporate culture of large, incumbent businesses collaborating with startups. Events like Hacking Health are the first step towards changing that.

Kit Kriewaldt is an entrepreneur and strategic communications specialist. He loves to talk James Bond, cocktails, and psychology – focusing particularly on decision making and consumer behaviour. He is also Chief Marketing Officer of digital communications platform Liquid State.

About Kit Kriewaldt

Kit Kriewaldt is an entrepreneur and strategic communications specialist. He loves to talk James Bond, cocktails, and psychology - particularly the topics of decision making and consumer behaviour. He is also former Chief Marketing Officer of digital communications platform Liquid State.