Digital innovation is collaborative, often messy and almost always surprising: Technology, business and customer colliding to transform the world as we know it today into something new. This was certainly the case at the MedTech Accelerator Hackathon recently where a few of my colleagues and I joined in to build on and refine the ideas of practicing medical professionals from the NHS.

This was not the sort of hackathon where you get the soldering iron out, fire up the 3D printer or write an app based on an open source gaming engine. I’ve done a number of those and they are fabulous fun and highly creative. No, this was the sort of hackathon that presented real world problems and ideas from practicing medical experts and challenged us to shape workable and practical solutions. The focus on the real needs of patients and NHS staff was the key and led to an excellent event.

Yes, I spent much of the afternoon plotting user journeys for patient and surgeon to define services centred on the primary users. But what surprised me most in this messy collaborative event was how our inventive step emerged.

Our focus was how to engage and support patients going through a ‘pathway’ – a defined process that aims to reflect the journey that they will take and one which provides the basis for an ever increasing amount of measurement and reporting across the NHS. So, we started to plot it and as we did Cristian mentioned the concept of ‘smart contracts’ that might be applied at each step. And smart contracts, apart from being a rather current block chain story, triggered in me the work that I had been doing on the applied signposting modelling tool with the Engineering Design Centre at Cambridge University prior to joining Cambridge Consultants.

Applied signposting allows multiple actors to improve the completeness, accuracy and confidence of information about something (or someone) – each bidding, with the resources that they have available, to contribute to achieving a target goal state – in this case, a positive outcome for the patient. As I explained this to Cristian, his immediate reaction was – “perfect, that is exactly what we actually do – we bring the resources we have to do the best for the patient that we can”.

And the inventive step was made: Combine smart contracts (with a bit of block chain magic to support open collaboration) with applied signposting and you have a fully dynamic and flexible pathway – one that is no longer defined by a standardised path but by the individual – the patient. All that remained to do was flesh out our plan and put our pitch together – which we did and, in case you are wondering, yes, A Better Path did ‘win’ the event and we look forward to presenting our thinking to the Medtech Accelerator fund so that we can make Cristian’s vision real: how to put the patient at the centre, not the process.

Tim Murdoch

Tim is Director of Digital Services here at Cambridge Consultants with a background in innovation for mobile payments and digital services such as M-PESA.