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AMIA 2020 Student Design Challenge

Healthcare at the Time of a Global Pandemic

AMIA is pleased to announce the 8th Annual Student Design Challenge (SDC). In this challenge, we invite teams of graduate students from different scientific disciplines and of various backgrounds to propose creative solutions to a specified problem related to healthcare. We seek novel solutions that incorporate cutting edge computational and interactive technologies and take advantage of the considerable advances in such research areas as biomedical informatics, human-computer interaction, computer science, information visualization, pervasive and ubiquitous computing, among many others.

Building upon the success of new format, we will once again focus on providing student teams with training and mentoring as they work on articulating their proposed solutions.

Proposal submission: We invite teams of graduate students and trainees in biomedical informatics and related fields to prepare a brief (1-2 pages) proposal for innovative solutions that re-envision health and healthcare at the time of the global pandemic. As our society struggles to curb the immediate impact of COVID-19, healthcare organizations and policy makers have begun to consider its long-term impact on future health and healthcare. We invite innovative solutions to both of these challenges, (1) supporting approaches to public health surveillance and other responses to the ongoing pandemic, and (2) envisioning healthcare that meets broad human health and well-being needs in the new reality of social distancing over the long term.

The proposal should clearly specify the selected problem, outline gaps in existing solutions targeting this problem, and describe the authors’ vision for their proposed solution. The five most innovative proposals will be invited to participate in a virtual summer training program. During this program, the teams will be provided with training on topics related to the design of interactive systems in health, including but not limited to methods for understanding human practices and requirements gathering, theories and frameworks related to decision support, design methods, evaluation methods, and others. The training will include virtual lectures, and practical exercises. Further, each team will have the opportunity to work with mentors who will provide teams with feedback on their emerging solutions. At the end of this period, the teams will be expected to fully articulate their proposed design concepts, develop an illustrative prototype of their solution, and design an approach to evaluating their prototype in user studies.

Final submission: at the end of the training program, the teams will submit an extended abstract of their final design solutions (more details will be provided to the selected teams about the structure of the extended abstract). This year, in the spirit of design challenge, rather than a competition, all five teams will be asked to attend AMIA Annual Symposium and present their solutions during a dedicated AMIA session without judging.


  • July 1 – submission deadline for proposals
  • July 10 – invitations to top 5 teams sent
  • July 15 – August 30 - summer training program
  • September 15 – final submissions
  • November – presentation at AMIA 2020 Annual Symposium

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is profoundly impacting the American way of life and the current and future state of healthcare. Now more than ever innovative informatics solutions can play a critical role in curbing the pandemic and mitigating its impact on individuals’ health and on the healthcare system. The last few months have been marked by incredible mobilization of the informatics community and introduction of a variety of innovative solutions for meeting human health needs at the time of the pandemic, from mHealth tools for symptoms tracking, to interactive visualizations that show the evolution of the pandemic, to predictive models that help policy makers plan appropriate response. In the next few months, as our country and economy re-open, tools for contact tracing and for monitoring new cases across the nation will become of paramount importance; yet the design of such tools will require careful consideration of individuals’ privacy. At the same time, healthcare providers are rapidly adopting digital technologies as they seek to supplement in-person care with care that can be delivered remotely. This includes ramping up telemedicine and telehealth services, increasing reliance on remote diagnostic and consultation, and introducing other solutions to deliver needed health care at individuals’ homes. Furthermore, now more than ever there is a need for innovative digital solutions for promoting health and wellness in these challenging times. In this challenge, we call on undergraduate and graduate students and trainees in Biomedical Informatics and related fields to envision innovative solutions for responding to COVID-19 pandemic on different levels. These solutions can include but are not limited to:

  • Novel approaches to monitoring and surveillance that utilize mobile technologies, and sensing and that are sensitive to individuals’ privacy
  • Novel interactive solutions for decision support, including both individual decisions (is it safe to visit a restaurant in my neighborhood?) and policy decisions (when is it safe to re-open public schools in a city?)
  • Novel solutions for remote care for mental or physical health at the time of during the pandemic
  • Novel solutions for promoting health and wellness

Importantly, we encourage student teams to carefully consider what design solutions can meet the new requirements and constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To qualify for participation, teams should include only students in degree-pursuing graduate programs (including clinicians in training, such as residents and fellows, as well as post-doctoral fellows pursing MA or MS degrees) or Graduate Certificates. Undergraduate students are welcome to participate in design teams, provided that they are supervised by graduate students. Given the nature of the creative process, we suggest that teams include no more than 4 or 5 individuals. Because of our focus on fostering multidisciplinary teams, the SDC will not accept submissions from single individuals. No faculty advising is required for participation; in fact, we encourage teams to work independently and with minimal faculty supervision.

To be considered for the inclusion in the challenge, the teams must begin by developing a brief (1-2 pages) proposal that specifies the problem and context, describes gaps in existing solutions, and proposes an innovative solution. The proposals will be judged on their innovation and transformative potential, as well as on their feasibility. The five teams selected to develop their proposals will be expected to articulate their solution in a way sufficient to demonstrate their functionality. This could include interactive prototypes or mockups. Fully functional prototypes that integrate with computational analytical engines are encouraged, but not required for the submission.

The Challenge Process

Each team will submit an abstract (1-2 pages) describing the specific challenge and context for their solution, gaps in existing decision support systems targeting their selected problem, their vision for the solution, and provide evidence of its feasibility (existing computational analytical engines either developed by the teams, or in published literature).

The submission process will be done through ScholarOne (more details on the submission process are to follow). The submissions will be evaluated through a peer-review process by the SDC steering committee.

The 5 best proposals will be invited to participate in the virtual summer training program delivered online (no travel required). The program will include a set of interactive lectures on topics relevant to the design of interactive systems in health and clinical decision support and will be delivered by leading researchers in biomedical informatics and HCI. Further, the teams will have a chance to discuss their emerging solutions and receive feedback from mentors assigned to each team. Most of the training program is expected to occur in July-August 2020.

At the end of the training program, the teams will be asked to submit an extended abstract (5 page maximum) describing their solution. These abstracts will be submitted via email directly to the SDC chairs.

All five teams participating in the training program will asked to present their solutions during a dedicated session at AMIA 2020. At least one member from each of the five teams will be expected to attend the conference to give an oral presentation illustrating their solution, discuss their solution, and the design process with conference attendees.

AMIA will wave registration fee for one presenter from each of the five teams, with the expectation that the presenter holds a student membership with either AMIA or ACM.

To promote the spirit of a design challenge rather than a competition, there will be no judging. All five teams selected to participate in the challenge will be asked to present their projects.

Proposal Preparation

The participants will prepare an abstract (1-2 page) written in the AMIA format that must include:

  • Definition of the selected problem grounded in deep understanding of an identified health problem
  • Discussion of gaps in existing solutions addressing the same problem
  • Description of the novelty/originality of the proposed solution
  • Establishing the feasibility of the proposed solution (evidence of existing computational capabilities, or knowledge needed to implement the proposed solution)

The completed abstract and any supplementary documents should be submitted using ScholarOne by 11:59 p.m. EDT on July 1, 2020. If you do not already have a ScholarOne account, you will need to create one. AMIA member log-in will not provide access to ScholarOne. If you are not sure if you already have an account or if you have one, but do not remember your username and password, please contact Dasha Cohen at

Proposal Review Criteria

The proposals will be reviewed using the following criteria:

  • Justification of the selected problem (does the proposal provide sufficient justification for the selected problem and its applicability for the theme of the challenge)
  • Fit to the problem (how likely is the proposed solution to address the selected problem?)
  • Innovation (how novel and original is the solution?)
  • Feasibility of the solution (evidence of computational analytical capability, or knowledge resources necessary to implement the solution)


The SDC presentations will take place during a dedicated session at the AMIA Annual Symposium.


  • July 1 – submission deadline for proposals
  • July 10 – invitations to top 5 teams sent
  • July 15 – August 30 - summer training program
  • September 15 – final submissions
  • November – presentation at AMIA 2020 Annual Symposium
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