Tweede Kamer Hackathon: Medicine Price Comparison
On the 4th of October, a team of Anchormen Accelerators participated in a Hackathon prepared by the Tweede Kamer, Ministerie van BZK, Ministerie van Financiën, the CBS, Algemene Rekenkamer, and the Open State Foundation.
The Accountability initiative, aptly named by the organizers, challenged teams of developers, data scientists, and data analysts to use open source government data and build a solution as an answer to growing challenges in Education and Health care.
A real-life, practical assignment like this is a great learning opportunity for this year’s Accelerator trainees, so we sent a team to participate in the Hackathon. Four Junior Machine Learning Engineers and one Senior Anchormen Data Scientist set off early in the morning towards The Hague, ready to activate some data.
Out of the two available challenges to choose from, our team focused on comparing medication prices in several Western European countries. It’s important for patients to have access to affordable medication, but often times this information is not readily available. How can data bring more insight and transparency to the field? This was the challenge they aimed to overcome.
After a full day of data scraping and development, the Accelerators were ready to present their solution – a Medication Price Comparison Web App.
So, how does it work? Here is one of our Accelerators, Martijn to explain:
“All medicine has a unique code according to the organ or system it works on, called ATC Code. After about 4 hours of data scraping, we gathered info on as many different ATC codes and their prices as possible. Next to that, for our target countries (and ATC-codes), we calculated a price per mg. or ml. Based on all of this data and units sold in the Netherlands, we projected how much it would cost to acquire all of your medicine in one of the other countries. In practice, this means that a person could easily compare and choose the most affordable place to get their medication from.” – Martijn van Laar, Anchormen Accelerator
The web app compares drug prices in Belgium, Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. But, theoretically, with enough time and investment, it can cover all markets for which there is enough data. The team finished their pitch with a call for action towards a standardized system for the entirety of Europe. Their research revealed that each country has its own coding system for public medicine data which makes comparison and insight very burdensome.
At the end of the day, although our team didn’t participate for the developmental budget reward (as the Accelerator program is demanding enough on its own), the team learnt a lot and received praise and recognition for their practical solution.
Within the first week of the program, they already faced many of the challenges that bigger projects present – the importance of good data quality, the stress of time constraint, and the decision-making risks that come with the job.
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