A Challenge Posed; A Challenge Answered



What is the first word that comes into mind when someone says “health” or “health tech?” In 2018, the answer is likely “Opioid” and “Artificial Intelligence (AI).” With a growing public interest in combating opioid abuse and advancing AI, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) teamed up with Catalyst to launch two innovation challenges on those two topics. The first challenge, “the Opioid Challenge,” was designed to address the opioid crisis and support those affected by the opioid misuse while the second challenge, “the AI and the Healthcare Consumer Challenge,” aimed to leverage AI to assist consumer decision making. The challenges sought innovators and entrepreneurs from all around the world and garnered nearly 200 registrations.

Through a rigorous vetting process, 100 amazing competitors proceeded to phase one and five semi-finalists advanced to phase two. Along the way, expert judges analyzed the submissions on a variety of factors such as scalability, impact, UX/UI and more. The final phase of the challenge, a live pitch, was held at the Health 2.0 Fall Conference in Santa Clara where both the expert judges and the audience had a say in who would take home the grand prize.

In front of a large and diverse audience of clinicians, C-suite executives, entrepreneurs, and investors, three finalists from each challenge had five minutes to pitch their solution and five minutes to answer questions from a panel of industry judges. All the finalists had a fantastic pitch but only two winners took home the grand prize of $ $50,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The runner-up of each challenge won $15,000 and the third place winners won $10,000. The winners for each challenge are:

Opioid Challenge

  • First place- Sober Grid is a social network designed to support, assist, and educate those suffering from all kinds of addiction. The Sober Grid platform incorporates a suite of geolocated support, a “burning desire” distress beacon, and coaching. For those looking to get help and support, the Sober Grid platform is a fantastic free utility.
  • Second place- ResQ is a behavioral journal that promotes resilience to relapse by through gamification and social assistance.
  • Third place- Team Hashtag is a wearable device designed to help identify and blast an SOS when a wearer overdoses.  

AI Challenge  

  • First place- Buoy is a virtual triage chatbot designed to work on any browser. All too often we rely on the quick search for information and get what we pay for– inaccurate and sometimes harmfully misdiagnosed information. The Buoy system takes a more conversational approach and emulates the same techniques a doctor would use when diagnosing your symptoms. We still recommend following up, but this AI solution is an amazing first step.
  • Second place- INF Robotics RUDY is a fascinating in-home care, natural language processing, and general assistance robot for the elderly to age with dignity.
  • Third place- Patient Price, an extremely useful platform with an ability to gauge costs as a base offering for a whole suite of services aimed at making healthcare easier to navigate and more transparent.

As always, Catalyst encourages you to look at these examples as case studies for the wide frontier of digital health still open to us. Read up on the winners and reach out to us if you’re ready to challenge how we can impact others.

John El-Maraghy is a Program Associate at Catalyst @ Health 2.0 that focuses on cultivating and creating positive and lasting healthcare partnerships.

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  1. Health technology is required to track patients who have already receive opioid prescriptions. A patient referral management solution will help solve such challenges to a great extent.