FASTriage: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Pitch to Someone Else

I’m really excited about this project called FASTriage (the name will make sense soon). Spoiler alert: they didn’t win our innovation series but did go on to win a big Boston hackathon.

It started last spring at the iHub and Microsoft idea lab on machine learning, which uses algorithms to identify patterns and predict outcomes. We extended the session into an innovation series, where teams – over five months and with iHub and Microsoft support – developed and validated commercializable ideas.

Three participants teamed up to address the problem of routing scarce social services to patients using machine learning technology: Arjun Rangarajan, MBBS, MPH, Brigham project manager working with complex patients, Macarius Donneyong, PhD, MPH, Brigham epidemiologist evaluating therapeutic outcomes and David Opp, coordinator at the Boston Biomedical Innovation Center (B-BIC) who formerly worked at the Boston Public Health Commission.

From interviews with BWH community experts, they heard a recurring theme: patients’ unmet psychosocial needs – hunger, addiction, lack of transportation or housing and language barriers – make it hard for them to follow care plans and require specialized community resources. The team wondered, “Is there a better way to connect patients with the right intervention in the right place at the right time?”

That’s where machine learning came in: an electronic medical record-based algorithm would identify patients with complex psychosocial needs and recommend resources depending on their medical condition, location and other details. They called it FASTriage (FAST stands for “Formalized & Automated Social Triage”).

When Macarius, David and Arjun pitched their idea in the final stage of our innovation series, they weren’t selected as the first place recipient. But they didn’t give up. Arjun suggested pitching at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Hacking Medicine Grand Hack – four days later, their idea took the top prize in the Connected Health track.

Today, the team is gathering data to validate their solution and build a prototype, and they’re in talks to pilot the project internally.

Jan Lamey, MS, manager of the BWH Integrated Care Management Program (a program which handles complex patient cases, and, in our opinion, a prime candidate program for this solution) said: “FASTriage has great potential to help us understand which patients may benefit from referral to our most valuable and limited resources.”

To me, what makes this team stand out is their perseverance. At the “fuzzy front end” of innovation, many ideas from even the most passionate teams fizzle. Not only did they design a solution to a critical problem, but they had the momentum and inspiration to take their idea beyond iHub.

Macarius said it best: “Our solution can truly make an impact, improving patient care and health outcomes.”

What are you innovating today?

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Lesley Solomon
iHub Executive Director