The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) launched its inaugural ONS Hackathon on November 9, 2020, a competition designed to identify innovative ways to address challenging issues in the delivery of quality cancer care. Meghan O. Coleman, DNP, CRNP, and Alison McDaniel, BSN, RN, OCN®’s winning project, Evidence-Based Quality Understanding in Pathology (EQUIP), provided ways to solve the problem of unequal access to biomarker and other genetic and genomic testing.

“Innovative oncology care delivery models were advancing rapidly before 2020, but the clinical and economic changes induced by the pandemic escalated digital and scientific development exponentially,” ONS President Nancy Houlihan, MA, RN, AOCN®, said. “ONS is committed to preparing oncology nurses to respond in real time to the needs of our patients in this new paradigm. The ONS Hackathon is our exciting new laboratory for generating ideas from practicing nurses and supporting their development to implementation. It is an investment in the future of quality cancer care and leading oncology nursing forward.” 

A project of the ONS Center for Innovation, the two-week virtual event brought together oncology nurses with varied backgrounds and expertise to brainstorm how to improve access to care focusing on four areas:

  • Barriers to care related to prior authorization requirements
  • Efficient and cost-effective implementation of evidence-based testing in treatment planning
  • Safe delivery of care, regardless of where the patient is located
  • Geographical barriers to care delivery

The idea came about as a result for a new approach to strategic planning. The goal is to work towards building a culture of innovation with our members and the ONS Hackathon was a first step,” Michele Galioto, DNP, RN, CNS, executive director for the ONS Center for Innovation, said. “The ONS Board of Directors truly believes in the need for innovation in cancer delivery and are investing in the resources to support these efforts.” The center plans to conduct two more ONS Hackathons in 2021.

Organizers selected participants based on their past engagement with ONS and their experience serving various roles within the care team, including clinical nurse specialists, staff nurses, nurse navigators, home care nurses, and pharmaceutical industry nurses.

Each team also had access to a panel of nursing and technical mentors with which to share ideas and obtain feedback.

  • Kate Huey, a transformation executive with prior stints at Microsoft and Motorola
  • Alex Jung, partner at Parthenon EY, a strategic business consultancy, and a healthcare operations expert
  • Benjamin Kolt, the offering (product) manager at IBM and an expert on electronic health records
  • Alice Landis-McGrath, MD, a member of IBM Watson Health Oncology and Genomics group
  • Deborah Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, advanced practice nurse and Francis Hill Fox Distinguished Professor in the School of Nursing and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Director of Cancer Survivorship
  • Carina Manchester, RN, MS, RN-BC, a master’s-trained nurse informaticist with Connexall, USA
  • Kathi Mooney, PhD, RN, FAAN, distinguished professor in the University of Utah College of Nursing

Participants attended several workshops designed to fuel innovative thinking and multiple brainstorming sessions, along with frequent check-ins with mentors to get feedback and advice on further direction. They developed a pitch and presented it to a team of three judges on November 20. The judges evaluated the ideas based on patient experience, impact, innovation or ingenuity, use of data and technology, and feasibility.  

ONS is a professional association that represents 100,000 nurses and is the professional home to more than 35,000 members. ONS is committed to promoting excellence in oncology nursing and the transformation of cancer care. Since 1975, ONS has provided a professional community for oncology nurses, developed evidence-based education programs and treatment information, and advocated for patient care, all in an effort to improve quality of life and outcomes for patients with cancer and their families. Learn more at