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We’re only beginning to discover the power and potential that digital tools have to address healthcare’s current challenges—the need for increased efficiency, managing big datasets, treatment tracking and diagnosis, which currently takes an average of 7.6 years for rare diseases. This is a revolution that is also impacting how digital healthcare tools are developed. The trend is toward using team-based collaboration, open-source principles and hackathons—those high-adrenaline gatherings of software engineers, entrepreneurs and designers that bring together the best minds in different fields to solve a technology problem as quickly as possible.

Healthcare’s Grand H@ckfest sponsored by MIT H@cking Medicine and the Kauffman Foundation took place March 14-16. The rare disease track at this event was a collaboration between Siren Interactive and Global Genes, and author and geneticist Dr. Sharon Moalem, which was aimed at creating a free tool that will speed diagnosis of the 7,000 different rare diseases. Hackathon teams were tasked with developing refinements for Dr. Moalem’s Recognyz tool, which is a phone-based app that he states uses facial recognition software to help physicians screen for signs of the one-third of rare diseases that are associated with facial phenotypes.

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