Tap Into Your Members' Creativity

By: Summer Mandell

The American Medical Association challenged its members to come up with a winning app idea for its first-ever AMA App Challenge. (Titled "These Apps Are Just What the Doctor Ordered" in print edition.)

What's the great idea? Hold a contest for members to design a new app for smartphones.

Who's doing it? American Medical Association

What's involved? Most apps are intended to make life easier for their users. With the widespread use of smartphones among its members, the American Medical Association asked them to create an innovative medical app that could be used in their daily work. AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara, MD, says that since physicians enjoy peer review and competition, "we began the 2011 AMA App Challenge to provide an exciting technological challenge that tapped into physicians' medical expertise."

Launched last summer, the contest challenged members to come up with an app idea that is useful, aligns with the AMA's mission, and represents a contestant's expertise. The association created a microsite for the competition, "and we maximized our existing physician communication channels—including the AMA website, earned media, social media, and email—to promote participation," says Madara.

The AMA received 358 ideas from eligible U.S.-licensed physicians, residents, and medical students. "We narrowed these down to the top 30 through an in-house vetting process, and a panel consisting of physicians and developers selected the 10 finalists," says Madara. "AMA members were then invited to vote for their favorite apps—one from the physician category and one from the medical resident and student category."

By the close of voting in September, nearly 2,000 AMA members chose among finalist apps like "Rounder," which allows users to keep track of hospitalized patients, and "Residency Application Tracker," which helps fourth-year medical students monitor residency information and communications. The two grand-prize winners announced at the 2011 AMA Interim Meeting in November received a $1,000 American Express gift card, a $1,500 Apple Store gift card, and a trip for two to New Orleans. Runner-up winners received a $100 American Express gift card.

What are people saying? Madara says that the 2011 AMA App Challenge resulted in new and unexpected opportunities for collaboration between thought leaders, institutions, and technology groups. The contest drew a crowd of participants ranging from those who are regularly engaged with the association to those who are just getting involved with the AMA for the first time.

"We were excited about the diversity of ideas and the range of physicians who submitted these ideas. We had great participation from physicians and future physicians in various career stages in different medical specialties, geographic locations, and practice settings," says Madara. "They brought outstanding expertise and creativity to their work, and we ended up with many app ideas that could become the next big medical app."