CHAPEL HILL, NC—In a digitized world, it’s inevitable that technology will be harnessed to improve health services, service delivery, and—it is hoped—health outcomes. Health and technology players are using application (“app”) competitions to explore what technology might offer and what innovators can devise. The approach is new and not yet tested over time, but MEASURE Evaluation sought to provide initial guidance on what seems to work. We explored gray literature and talked with app competition leaders to understand better what these contests might offer, focusing on best uses of competitions.
MEASURE Evaluation is a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) focused on strengthening health systems and monitoring and evaluation of health programs and policies. The project found that app competitions are excellent ways to gather a lot of ideas, build enthusiasm for a specific goal, and encourage innovation. They pose challenges for ensuring that innovations are successful, sustainable, and cost-effective. And, we found that often there is inadequate definition of the objectives of the competition.
In-person competitions were found to be excellent at creating a community around an idea, fostering diversity and attracting younger participants, and including many sectors of health professionals. But in-person competitions require more resources and restrict time available to arrive at solutions. On the other hand, online competitions allow more time, require fewer resources and effort, and allow competitors to submit an idea rather than a fully realized solution. The disadvantages of online competitions are they don’t offer networking among participants, they don’t foster new collaborations, and they offer an advantage to established organizations over those that are new.
Read a brief on app competitions.