HHS pilots Health Tech Hatch testing platform

By Jonah Comstock
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patricia salber

Health Tech Hatch CEO Patricia Salber

In late January, medical-focused crowdfunding site Health Tech Hatch will premier its testing platform in a three-way partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Health 2.0. Health Tech Hatch will offer its 20 physician, patient, and tech guru testers up for free to developers entering healthfinder.gov's Mobile App Challenge.

Healthfinder.gov, run by the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, hosts the "Quick Guide for Healthy Living," which offers information about preventative services offered under the affordable care act. HHS is seeking to make the guide easier and more fun to access by sponsoring a contest - with assistance from Health 2.0 and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - to develop it into a mobile app. The contest, which just launched, has a $50,000 grand prize for the best app, and three $10,000 prizes for the top prototypes in the qualifying round.

Health Tech Hatch launched its first project in October, one of several health-related crowdfunding platforms that sprung up when it became clear that crowdfunding giant Kickstarter wouldn't reliably accommodate health-related projects. But what sets them apart, CEO Patricia Salber told MobiHealthNews, is their testing platform, which will soon form a second half of their business.

"[Medstartr] is mainly doing crowdfunding," she said. "For us it's crowdfunding and beta testing and whatever synergies there are between those two fields."

Once the testing platform is established, she said, health tech entrepreneurs using the site will have a choice to sign up for just crowdfunding, crowdfunding and testing, or just testing. Businesses will pay a fee for the testing, but if they use the crowdsourcing aspect of the site they'll be encouraged to build that fee into the budget - so it will just be extra money added to the fundraising goal.

Testers won't wait for a developed, working app. Instead, the system is designed to provide feedback in every step of the process. Developers can upload a simple description of the app and get feedback from testers, or they can upload a series of screenshots. Testers respond both in free text and by filling out standard or custom questionnaires.

For the HHS contest, developers will have free access to Health Tech Hatch's testing platform, supplemented by additional testers recruited via other organizations. Salber says version 1 of the testing platform has been ready to go for some time, but the company was content to wait until version 2 was developed to launch it on the site. She said the opportunity to work with HHS was too good to pass up, and a good opportunity to test the system in action prior to charging for it. Contest entrants are encouraged to crowdfund with Health Tech Hatch, but whether they do so won't have any bearing on their standing in the contest, Salber said.

Version 2 of the platform will involve more testers, Salber said, and a system to incentivize consumer testers to sign up with rewards like gift cards. The system will also allow developers to rate the testers' feedback to promote high quality testing.