Over the weekend, hundreds of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed innovators joined the XPC Hackathon to tackle some of our industry’s biggest challenges. When we here at Turquoise think of challenges the healthcare industry faces, our minds jump to a little initiative you may have heard of called price transparency. Eliminating the financial complexity of healthcare has certainly been no small undertaking, so naturally, we jumped at the chance to become a hackathon sponsor.

With Turquoise teammates stepping in as mentors, hosts, and judges, we got to know over 300 participants across 16 time zones, from clinicians to data scientists, from machine learning experts to AI whisperers. We fielded questions, brainstormed solutions, and watched pitch videos of products that didn’t exist 48 hours prior.

Spoiler alert: the kids are in fact alright.

Live from New York, it’s the Turquoise Hackathon Host (who does in fact live in New York, don’t @ us)

Gus Roman: Hackathon host/hype man extraordinaire Gus checking in here. Before things get up and running this weekend, a few of us got together to discuss trade secrets, our favorite SQL commands, and which category would feature the most creative entrants.

Did we intentionally time this photo perfectly so that one small sliver of blue sky would appear amidst the parted clouds? You bet we did! Catch our photography for sale, coming soon to a street corner vendor in Brooklyn.
Mentors, sponsors, hosts and hackers located in the area got together before kicking things off to talk shop, do a bit of networking, and generally enjoy being taller than chandeliers.

Then Friday rolled around, and we were off! Slack notifications were buzzing with ideas, optimism, and emojis. I walked the groups through an overview of Turquoise alongside the broader price transparency landscape. Turquoise provided a sample dataset for the contestants to access as part of their hackathon toolkit and we worked with teams competing in the Care Insights category.

Mentor Memz

Arian Akhavan: On Friday I donned my best professorial persona (whiteboard background, pocket protector, the works) and hosted office hours for the Care Insights groups. A lot of that time was spent talking with participants about the differences between cost/price transparency data and claims data. We see this confusion industry-wide, and the participants had access to numerous sample data sets from various sponsors and mentors. At Turquoise, we’re knee-deep in various data types, but it was good to step back and remember most folks who will eventually need cost data or a patient estimate see the number of different datasets as either largely the same or confusingly similar.

Ryan Kim: I stepped into the mentor role on Saturday and hosted a series of office hours and 1:1 Q&A sessions with groups. An immediate observation: the cost of healthcare is top of mind for these hackers. One group discovered multiple participants previously had the same procedure and decided to compare their costs. Unsurprisingly, the variation was wide, which led to an animated discussion about the factors at play in the cost differences. There’s such a lightbulb moment that goes off when people tie their experiences in daily life to a problem they can solve within their profession. Did I just come up with a pro tip for recruiters? Maybe I should become a LinkedIn influencer. I digress…

With a better understanding of the Turquoise data, mentor conversations evolved to discuss patient estimates and the lack of education/understanding regarding the difference between charges and negotiated rates. One group realized that if both providers and payers understood the negotiated rate, and those rates are now public, why would patients blindly pay a medical bill without verifying the bill was calculated using the correct rate? This type of empowerment is exciting and motivating and led to lots of ideas on how price transparency data could be baked into a number of different platforms.

When I handed the teams off to record their final pitches on Sunday, they’d started to scratch the surface of how to use price transparency data as a foundational component of health tech solutions.

From the Judge’s Chambers

Carol Skenes: I joined the merriment on Sunday and was met by lots of smart people tackling some very real problems in healthcare from different perspectives. I saw groups mixing insights from price transparency data, clinical outcomes data, and patient data in an effort to lower costs and bring better value to patients. One such group suggested cost savings from their app focused on orthopedic surgeries would be in the billions. The optimism!

Another team used Peloton as a guiding principle to tackle value-based care (VBC)…and I mean actually using Peloton as a workout bike and not a clothing rack. The pitch laid out multiple selling points Peloton offered (easy access, professional contents, community, etc.) and explored what those same selling points could look like for providers of VBC. When products in other industries have been successfully transformative or proven habits can be built, why not use those as a basis for healthcare as well?

Regardless of the scope of the solution (as broad as decreased costs for patients, employers, and providers and as granular as discharge disposition planning), all the groups honed in on the fact that in order for healthcare to improve, we’re going to need to be smart about pulling data from a number of different resources. There is no magic bullet data source in the industry, and the future is likely bright where the right data gets combined with the right interface and the appropriate amount of machine learning and, eventually AI to help simplify things.

Another common area of focus was on removing administrative and clerical work from clinicians so they’re able to focus the vast majority of their time on treating patients. Winning pitches included ideas to assist with medication authorization and insurance reimbursement as well as how AI integration could assist doctors.

You can check out more about each category’s winning pitch here!

Overall Takeaways

This is an opaque, complex, and sometimes frustrating industry we find ourselves in. Despite that, motivated and talented minds aren’t shying away from tackling the problems.

At the start of the planning phase, virtually every problem selected by teams seemed, at least on paper, to be solvable using data, AI, and machine learning. Uncovering the solution for one problem tended to uncover a host of additional problems though, because of revenue cycle complexity, data interoperability, and the number of required stakeholders and systems involved in a single episode of care. I saw a lot of teams take the approach of chunking out bigger problems into smaller problems. This is a similar approach that Turquoise has taken of working toward lowering the cost of healthcare by focusing on price transparency, and I think it’s an effective way of making a difference in such a massive industry. Chiseling away at the larger problems in the industry can lead to marked improvement, and this hackathon was a perfect example of seeing that mentality in effect. Very exciting weekend all around!

And with that, we return to our day jobs.  

Hackers out,

Gus, Ryan, Arian, and Carol