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Photo: Zoe Gan

The 10th anniversary of PennApps may bring new and exciting changes to the health care system.

This year, for the first time, PennApps is partnering with Penn Medicine to connect medical professionals and some of the student programmers who attend the hackathon in the hopes to bring new-age coding ideas to an older health care system.

College junior Alex Wissmann, a co-director of the event, is optimistic about the impact that PennApps Health may have on the future of medicine.

“The issue is that hackers familiar with these technologies don’t commonly work with those familiar with the healthcare system,” Wissman said in an email. “The event will bring hackers together with staff and students from the medical field. I’m hopeful that it can be the start of something really cool.”

Mitt Coats , a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine and an organizer for PennApps Health, is also excited for the opportunities that this new event could provide.

In an age where all medical records have become digital, it is imperative that medical professionals understand the complicated systems that can ultimately save or hurt their patients The electronic medical record (EMR) has been under scrutiny from doctors for being technically confusing and hard to maneuver. PennApps Health may be a step in solving these issues.

“Every aspect of our physical lives is starting to have an electronic imprint, ” Coats explains. “Coding has this nerdy subculture, but I think people should understand the basic languages that go into the things they use every day.

“When I found out about PennApps I thought this would be a great chance to learn more about technology and start including people who didn’t necessarily think about health as a space to create new things, ” he added.

As this event is the first of its kind, Coats knows to keep expectations reasonable. “There is a temptation to think that we are going to make the next big thing, ” Coats said. “Yet the point of these hackathons is to have fun and to get people interested in creating new things and thinking about problems in a hands-on way.

Staff members from the Medical School, Penn Center for Innovation and the University of Pennsylvania Health System will learn the basic tools needed to construct a web application in a series of coding tutorials leading up to the event.

“The idea isn’t to turn people into little coding prodigies over the weekend, ” Coats said. “The idea is to give people the nuts and bolts of building a web app that could be published in a weekend.”

Just before the PennApps main events on Friday, a health and medicine fair will be held, during which the student hackers can meet their medical mentors and review the data and hardware that will be accessible to them for their hacking needs. Students can choose to take part in this part of the hackathon rather that doing a more general hackathon project. Then, from 9 p.m. on Friday night to 9 a.m. Sunday morning, mentors and students will hack together in a designated spot in the Education Commons.

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