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Hackathon helps identify recruits for Northwell IT jobs


Members of Northwell Health's information technology department participated at a three-day hackathon to see and be seen – a crucial step in the recruitment of budding IT professionals in an increasingly competitive and important sector of the health care space.

Vish Anantraman, MD, MS, Northwell's chief innovation architect, led a team of about 20 IT specialists who scouted for talent as about 175 students from several colleges showcased their skills during a series of challenges involving the use of Application Programming Interfaces(APIs) and data extracts to build interesting mini applications from scratch in a 36-hour, non-stop marathon. One main goal of participating in the hackathon, held at the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) at Stony Brook University from February 16-18, Dr. Anantraman said, was to identify prospective job candidates. "We get a direct peek into their talent," he said, by watching them work real-life tech challenges.

But the more important task was to show students that IT innovation at Northwell Health are a vital part of the system. "We have big and important tech operations here with over 1700 people working in IT and innovation is part of our DNA" said Anantraman. "It's the way we see our future. Our CEO at one point said, 'We're a tech company that also does health care.' We build innovative solutions, attract talent and get the word out that Northwell has one of the largest tech operations on Long Island."

Northwell threw down two hackathon challenges: offering operational datasets to improve quality and cost of care delivery in a completely de-identified form; and the challenge to students was to come up with algorithms to predict which appointments patients are likely to miss by using data about other missed appointments and weather information for the area. The second challenge was to use APIs to improve the way clinical information is presented to doctors and nurses to reduce overload of information and highlight the right information at the right time.

Dr. Anantraman and his colleagues circulated through the rooms at CEWIT, working with teams of students, answering questions, or quizzing them about their solutions. "We were going around mentoring them about the challenges in health care and the technicalities of the very complex data that we have," he said.

Students worked marathon sessions during the three-day test of skill and endurance, some sprawling out on the floor for brief naps before returning to their projects.

"There's lots of action in health care," Dr. Satya Sharma, executive director of the CEWIT Center said. "The students want to do some good and know that health care is a very important field."

Dr. Anantraman said participating in his first hackathon paid off, with several hackathon participants set up for interviews for summer internships. The Northwell team also came away with ideas to build on the innovations developed at the hackathon.

Stony Brook students Ankit Aggarwal, Abhinav Jain, Komal Gyanani and Yogesh Agrawal won the challenge to create a smart user interface for doctors to review patient health records while Shaan Sheikh, Lise Ho and Arjun H. Rao won for developing a model to identify patient appointments that are likely to be missed. The winning teams in the Northwell challenge were each awarded $1,000 and a VIP Innovation Tour of the Northwell Health Center.

"They were very excited about what they wanted. This was under real-world conditions and had real problems, real challenges, rather than academic," Dr. Anantraman said of the hackathon participants. "There was a lot of learning for me as well."

To find information technology jobs at Northwell Health, search here:

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About Northwell Health
Northwell Health is New York State's largest health care provider and private employer, with 23 hospitals, more than 650 outpatient facilities and nearly 15,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 66,000 employees – 15,000-plus nurses and 4,000 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We're making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit

Jason Molinet
[email protected]

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