The California HealthCare Foundation, user-centered design agency Mad Pow, and Health 2.0 are sponsoring a design challenge for technologists, aimed at helping patients and provider organizations understand the environmental, social, and economic complexities affecting the onset and progression of disease. Prizes range from $2,000 to $5,000 and submissions are due by June 27.

"One reason for Americans' poor health outcomes is the minimal attention paid to the contextual issues that contribute to the onset and progression of disease — issues like hunger, poor housing conditions, stress, and isolation," the CHCF said in announcing the challenge. "There is growing consensus that the healthcare system must understand the hurdles in a patient's life that impact their health in order to provide effective care, but there is not yet a good way to engage patients to proactively share this information."

The challenge asks developers to focus their proposed engagement platform on the following factors: food insecurity, housing insecurity, stress, and social connection and isolation.

The sponsors are asking entrants to design a solution that:

  • Prompts patients to think about one or more of the factors listed above, and understand how it impacts their health.
  • Explains the reasons for discussing these barriers with providers, in a way that highlights how providers can help.
  • Helps patients feel comfortable sharing relevant social and financial problems with health care providers, and accomplish that sharing on their own terms.
  • Collects data to serve as a foundation for patients and providers to have the best possible conversations, either between visits or in the limited time they have together – whether it’s a first-time visit, an annual checkup with a physician, an outreach call, or home visit from a care manager or social worker.
  • Provides the opportunity to record, reflect, and possibly send a cry for help around the time a patient notices or experiences problems (such as an eviction notice, a loss of a loved one, or a job loss that results in not being able to afford enough food).
  • Creates a compelling, intuitive experience for the patient.


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