Approximately 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year, and about 70 percent of them do not receive Veterans Administration (VA) care. Finding a new way to support veterans before they’re in crisis, especially if they don’t come into the VA for their care, is the challenge that Bernard Baird, Margaret Bertoni, David Hook, Alex Kreidler and Ronan Kelly sought to tackle together as team SAIF at the recent MIT Hacking Medicine D.C. Grand Hack. Their work won a Samsung Breakthroughs That Matter Award in the category of Mental Health & Professional Burnout.

A Modern Solution to a Pervasive Problem

SAIF’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform is a concept for identifying mental and emotional distress and initiating early intervention. It is a solution built upon a cloud-based platform that integrates VA health record information, biometric and activity data, as well as patient-reported outcome measures (PHQ9, GAD7), to monitor a veteran’s emotional state for indicators of deterioration that require intervention. The platform uses information already furnished by the veteran to their mental health provider and then applies an algorithm to further track, trend and correlate the data.

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“A key benefit of the SAIF solution is that it integrates previously unavailable data, such as sleep cycle tracking or screen time, gathered via Samsung Galaxy smartphone, wearable and Bixby solutions,” said David Hook, SAIF team lead. “Access to these richer data sets means faster and more effective treatments for those most in need.”

When the algorithm identifies an escalation in risk to the patient, it prompts intervention such as sending a notification to their mental health provider or connecting the veteran to a peer network. If there is a serious threat of harm, the solution can escalate directly to the Veterans Crisis Line. Importantly, veterans don’t have to worry about data risks, as information is securely passed to the VHA using login credentials from MyHealth eVet, and protected on the phone using Samsung Knox.

“We need to make suicide prevention a critical focus right now as a nation. If we can collaborate to find new ways to apply innovative technologies to tackle this epidemic and make a difference in at least one veteran’s life with a solution like SAIF, it’s worth it,” said Hook.

Revolutionizing Healthcare Through Technology

Samsung Breakthroughs That Matter Award winners were chosen based on which solutions most effectively embraced Samsung’s Galaxy Note9, Gear S3, software development kits (SDKs) and the Samsung Knox platform to create a transformative digital health solution with the potential to improve veteran care quality and access. Winning team members received a Note9 smartphone and ongoing access to Samsung Developer Program mentors and resources to continue the development of their solution after the D.C. Grand Hack concludes.

Other winners in the MIT Hacking Medicine D.C. Grand Hack included team CrowdAid in the category of Access to Healthcare for a solution to crowdsource funding for veterans without insurance, and team KeyWatch in the category of Rare and Orphan Diseases for a solution for continuous patient monitoring to reduce misdiagnosis of rare diseases. Past Samsung Breakthroughs That Matter Award Winners include teams Simulacron and Match Perch.

The MIT Hacking Medicine events aim to energize, infect and teach healthcare entrepreneurship and digital strategies to scale medicine as a way to help solve problems worldwide. For more information and upcoming events, visit

Learn more about health technology solutions, and get your free guide to modernizing clinical communications with smartphones. For more on veterans’ healthcare innovation, read our recent conversation with the VA’s Entrepreneur in Residence Suzanne Shirley.

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Chris Balcik

Chris Balcik currently serves as Vice President and Head of Mobile B2B at Samsung Electronics America. With over 26 years experience, including management consulting with the Department of Defense and other Federal clients, Chris has deep expertise in organizational transformation and the role of technology. Prior to his current role, he led Federal government sales for Samsung’s Mobile B2B division. Prior to that, he assisted public and private sector clients including the FAA, DNI and DoD on complex, large-scale systems engineering and technology transformations, concept of operations design, program management, business case analysis, and business process optimization. Prior to entering the civilian workforce, Chris was an Officer in the United States Air Force leading Command and Control support to military operations.

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