UsVsVirus – XITASOnians participate in the hackathon of the Federal Government

Last week, the federal government, along with seven social initiatives, called for the hackathon #WirVsVirus (UsVsVirus). Some XITASOnians also used the weekend to work with more than 40,000 participants in what is arguably the world’s largest virtual hackathon to find solutions to coronavirus challenges.

Dr Sebastian McRae, Senior Consultant at XITASO Healthcare, participated in a project group dedicated to monitoring free hospital beds in intensive care units.

What challenge have you chosen for yourself and why?

Irrespective of the hackathon, I spoke to a colleague last week about the need for a possibility of monitoring free intensive care beds throughout Germany. In the challenge category “How can we make hospital capacities more transparent?” there was then a project group that dealt with this very topic.
Free beds in the intensive care units of hospitals will become a valuable resource in the coming weeks, which is about human lives. In order to report capacities transparently and quickly at all times, we need a platform on which each hospital can live-map its capacity of beds with and without ventilators, so that emergency patients can be distributed in the best possible way. The aim of our project group was to develop a prototype for such a platform.

Have you been able to meet this challenge? What is the result?

The result is “TrackYourBed”, a prototype for a bed management system for hospitals in the fight against Covid-19 and beyond. The aim of the app is to make it possible to record vacant beds in intensive care units in an easy-to-understand and, above all, nationwide uniform system, on a daily basis. The system will be available to hospitals, control centers and the Robert Koch Institute to provide a quick overview of bed capacity. Filtering or search functions, such as perimeter search, help to find suitable beds as quickly as possible and to allocate patients as needed. The search is also facilitated by sub-divisions of bed type, specialist departments and the possibility of admitting Covid-19 patients.

Is the idea completely new? Are there no such registrations up to now?

Yes, there are already similar databases, such as the DIVI Intensive Register. However, there is currently no uniform, nationwide system, which means that the search for spare capacities still entails a great deal of time and personnel effort.
But it was important to us to build on the existing platforms and not to develop something completely new when it actually already exists. That is why our idea is to develop our own tool with “TrackYourBed”, but it is docked with interfaces to existing solutions and databases as well as to the Robert Koch Institute.

Your project team consisted of more than 30 people from different backgrounds. In which areas were you able to contribute the most?

I supported with technical input, especially during the conception phase. Key issues here included the objectives, the stakeholders involved and the organizational and technical feasibility of our ideas. Through my work at XITASO Healthcare, I was able to contribute my experience in optimizing solutions and digitization in the hospital environment. For example, the assumption that interfaces between our tool and all existing hospital information systems on the market could be developed within a few weeks would have been utopian.

A total of more than 40,000 people took part in the hackathon and you only had a few days. How was the whole thing organized? Were there any difficulties?

Overall, the whole thing was very self-organized. Challenges could be submitted in advance. These were then clustered thematically, so that a project topic could be selected. On the part of the organizers, there were moderators who did a lot of coordination work and were also available for technical or content questions.
Within the project teams, everything was also very self-organized. My team had about 30 participants. The team was made up of specialist experts, developers and design experts. Sub-teams were formed to handle individual sub-tasks, in which everyone invested as much work as they wanted and could.
The communication was done via different tools, which was not easy at the beginning, because some of the tools were completely new to me. The hackathon was very well organized, and only the unexpectedly high number of participants initially caused the organizers difficulties in coordination.

What happens next?

Until next weekend, a jury will select the best results of the hackathon. Exactly how the “TrackYourBed” app will continue is not yet clear. In any case, the Robert Koch Institute needs the solutions very quickly and we hope that the platform for bed management can be implemented, as it ensures optimal use of existing capacities and thus the best possible care for patients.

A clear summary of the “TrackYourBed” app and all features can be found in a short video here.

Author & contact person

Do you have questions, ideas or feedback on this topic? Feel free to contact us!

Dr. Sebastian McRae

As Senior Consultant at XITASO Healthcare, Dr. Sebastian McRae is a specialist in optimization solutions with a mathematical-scientific background in the hospital environment.