VA Center for Innovation


My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge

Compete to make the VA's My Kidney Nutrition App fun and gamified while implementing rewards tailored to the user’s kidney health goals


Did you know that around 30 million people, or 15% of American adults, have chronic kidney disease (CKD)?  The rate of prevalence is even higher for U.S. Veterans, and is the 4th most diagnosed disease among U.S. Veterans.  CKD is a dangerous disease that, if not treated appropriately,  can ultimately cause kidney failure and require dialysis or a transplant. 

Both kidney disease and kidney failure require complex and unique dietary modifications. These dietary changes can delay CKD progression which improves quality of life and reduces patient care costs by delaying the need for dialysis.

While dietitians currently provide Medical Nutritional Therapy and static printed materials to patients with CKD, a new mobile app is needed that provides autonomy and personalized features to help patients make informed food choices.

We are seeking your best idea of app features and gamification elements that will make an app a powerful tool to empower CKD patients to contribute to their own well-being.

The ideas submitted in this challenge may be utilized in follow on challenges that will execute on Topcoder.

See related Topcoder competitions here


What can you do right now?

  • Read the complete challenge guidelines to see the rules and requirements for entry into the challenge.
  • “Accept Challenge” by clicking the orange button above to compete in the challenge.
  • Follow the challenge above to be notified of any status updates to the challenge.
  • Share this challenge on social media using the icons above. Show your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.



Patients and their caregivers experience multiple challenges that limit their awareness for the risks, behavior and the management of their kidney disease. Information and tools that facilitate informed health decisions and that solicit patient goals and preferences would be useful as a means of nutrition management. Nutrition is a key means by which kidney disease may be delayed, but there is a dearth of understandable tools that positively educate patients and their caregivers about medical nutrition therapy and other lifestyle interventions.  A mobile app is needed for patients and their caregivers to utilize in the management and treatment of CKD.  The app will include core functionalities to allow individual users to enter or integrate their user profiles, disease state, medical history, lab trends, dietary and fluid tracking, drug interactions and nutrition recommendations so that the user can make informed nutritional decisions. Much of this information will be input or transferred by the end-user.

While the core functionalities are essential to the app, creating a fun and gamified incentive structure will help users stay engaged, work toward their goals, and be best able to contribute to their own well-being.                                              


What can you do?

We are asking you to submit ideas to creatively address one or more of the following items:

  • Personal goal setting and prioritization
  • Reward structure for specific achievements (for example: goal progress in lowering blood pressure or reducing body weight)
  • Utilization of the following blood test results as data types for gamified tracking
    • Labs: eGFR (the percent that the kidney functions), albumin, phosphorus, potassium, bicarbonate (CO2), uric acid, hemoglobin A1c. 
    • Dietary and fluid inputs: grams of protein, milligrams of potassium, sodium, phosphorus
  • Other features or functionalities that ties app use or tracking to incentives that promote consistent usage and healthy habits.



The Department of Veteran’s Affairs will award up to $17,500 in prize money, awarded as follows:

  • Up to 10 finalists - $1,000 each
  • First Place - $5,000
  • Runner up - $2,500


Open to submissions             November  16, 2017

Submission deadline             January 18th, 2018 @ 5pm ET

Winners Announced              February 15th, 2018


How do I win?

To be eligible for an award, your proposal must, at minimum:

  • Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements
  • Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
  • Be scored higher than your competitors!

Judging Scorecard






Does the idea impact patient health?  Does it promote healthy behaviors? Does it promote the ability of a patient to contribute to their own well-being?


Gamification/ Incentives


Does the idea promote consistent app use? Does the idea support users in setting and meeting goals? Are meeting key health indicators, lab values, and healthy behaviors rewarded?




How does the idea differ from existing solutions addressing this problem? How is the solution innovative?



Does the idea go above and beyond the stated criteria in a way that provides unexpected value for CKD patients and/or their caregivers.




Participation Eligibility:

The challenge is open to individuals, age 18 or older, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. Individual competitors and teams may originate from any country, as long as United States federal sanctions do not prohibit participation (see:

The following restrictions apply to the Challenge:  (1) Federal employees acting within the scope of their employment are not eligible to participate; (2) Federal employees acting outside the scope of their employment should consult their ethics advisor before participating in the Challenge; (3) All employees of the Government, [contractor(s)], Challenge sponsors, and other individual or entity associated with the development or administration of the Challenge, as well as their family members (i.e., spouse, children, parents, siblings, other dependents) and persons living in the same household whether or not related, are not eligible to participate; (4) Contractors receiving Government funding for the same or similar projects, along with their employees, are not eligible to participate in the Challenge.

Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.

No specific qualifications or expertise is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.

To be eligible to compete, you must comply with all the terms of the challenge as defined in the Challenge-Specific Agreement.


Registration and Submissions:

Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the website, on or before 5pm ET on January 18th, 2018. All uploads must be in PDF format. No late submissions will be accepted.


Intellectual Property:

If Challenge Sponsor notifies Innovator that its Submission is eligible for a Prize, Innovator will be considered qualified as a finalist (“Finalist”). In accepting a Prize, the Finalist hereby grants a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevokable, sublicensable, transferable, world-wide license to the American Society of Nephrology and the The United States Department of Veterans Affairs for the intellectual property they develop for or utilize in the app and all derivative works. The license grant also includes the rights to use and permit others to use all or any part of the submission including, without limitation, the right to make, have made, sell, offer for sale, use, rent, lease, import, copy, prepare derivative works, publicly display, publicly perform, and distribute all or any part of such submission, modifications, or combinations thereof and to sublicense (directly or indirectly through multiple tiers) or transfer any and all such rights.  Further, the Finalist agrees to hold the American Society of Nephrology and The United States Department of Veterans Affairs harmless for the use, distribution, copying, and display of the app, its source code, and all derivatives.  The Finalist shall further verify that it is the sole owner of any intellectual property developed for the app. The United States Department of Veterans Affairs shall have the right to implement submitted ideas in future applications.


Selection of Winners:

Based on the winning criteria, prizes will be awarded per the Judging Criteria section above. In the case of a tie, the winner(s) will be selected based on the highest votes from the Judges.


Judging Panel:

The determination of the winners will be made by HeroX/Topcoder based on evaluation by relevant  Department of Veterans Affairs and American Society of Nephrology  reviewers.  Individual scores and feedback will not be shared. 


Additional Information

  • By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
  • All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
  • All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
  • No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
  • Void wherever restricted or prohibited by law.

Challenge Updates

My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge Winner Announcement

Feb. 15, 2018, 8:35 a.m. PST by Paul Musille

We are proud to announce the winners in the $17,500 My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge.

By the submission deadline, there were 35 entries to the challenge. After careful review by a comprehensive VA evaluation panel, the award recipients are as follows:


First Prize ($5,000 USD)

Ashley Barney’s entry (USA) - Kidney Defender - The app that guides users in their personal quest for better health and celebrates as they become the champion of their inner needs.


Runner Up Prize ($2,500 USD)

Devon Chenette’s entry (USA) - Kreative Kidney - Kreative Kidney is an app that promotes healthy food choices through community engagement and incentivized profile upgrade rewards.


Finalist Prizes ($1,000 USD)

James Cobb, RN, MSN’s entry (USA) - Sidney Kidney/ Cindy Kidney - A comprehensive gaming solution to optimize behavior among renal patients informed by the technological adoption lifecycle and personality.

Douglas Chung‘s entry (USA) - KidneyUp! - KidneyUp is a wellness application designed to give feedback on the impact of dietary and other choices with powerful data tracking tools.

Esther Humphrey‘s entry (USA)- It's simply my kidney! - A visual of a kidney that resets every morning and based on inputs would visually appear better or worse by the end of the day.

Exygy Health‘s entry (USA) - Sidney the Kidney Personal Assistant - Sidney is a data-rich chatbot driven interface that offers customized interaction with patients through a simple back and forth conversation.

Mitul Sarkar’s Entry (USA) - Getting the diet done right, one meal at a time - App + phone camera + cloud AI = easy-to-follow, kidney-healthy meals using ingredients that are already at home. MEALS = GAMES; not chores.

George Lai’s Entry (USA) - Health Brawl - Use USRDS nutrition database in a competition with flash cards, player/team vs player/team games, to earn rewards used to buy real objects.

Ovidiu Dobre’s Entry (Romania) - Nutrition Hero - Gamification techniques for improving nutrition of CKD patients while engaging them into a motivational and rewarding process.

Eva G’s Entry (UK) - CKD Freedom App - The App is game-like and set in a fantasy-type environment with an aim to entice and entertain the User while effectively setting goals and achieving targets that have an impact on Users real life.

Jason Lovett’s Entry (USA) - My Kidney Nutrition App - Reliable dietary guidance from live RDNs, earn healthy kidney-friendly meal-in-a-box deliveries, connect to other Vets in CKD/renal failure.

Dorey Glenn’s Entry (USA) - The Renal Recipe Repository - The Renal Recipe Repository is an interactive database of CKD-friendly recipes for users on low potassium, phosphorous, or sodium diets.


Next Steps

The My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge on HeroX is just the beginning of a series of challenges to build an app for those with Kidney Disease.  These challenges will be held on the Topcoder platform, and you can follow along and compete here.  The ideas entered here provide a great base of ideas and features that might be considered for inclusion and inspiration in the final app!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the innovators who entered the challenge. While only the innovators listed above are receiving the prizes, there were so many other insightful solutions, and we are confident that many of the innovators in this challenge will do great things in the future. Thank you all for helping make this challenge a success and hope you will join us in the future Topcoder Challenges!

8 Hours Remaining to Submit!

Jan. 18, 2018, 6 a.m. PST by Joeana Lutha Mae Villo

If you're still assembling your submission, you have exactly 8 hours left to complete it! Remember, if you're planning to submit today, be sure to get it in well before the  5:00 pm ET cut-off.

Here's a Tip: HeroX recommends innovators plan to submit with at least a 3-hour window of time before the true deadline. Last-minute technical problems and unforeseen roadblocks have been the cause of many headaches. Don't let that be you!

Two Day Warning

Jan. 16, 2018, 2 p.m. PST by Joeana Lutha Mae Villo

This is your official two-day reminder!

That's right, the My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge will be closing this coming January 18th at 5:00 pm Eastern Time (New York/USA).

Please be sure to complete your submission form well before the exact cut-off time.

At exactly 5:00 pm ET, we can no longer accept new submissions!

Got questions?

Now is the time to speak up! Comment directly on this update with any questions about the submission process and we'll get back to you right away!

Five Days Left to Submit (TIPS)

Jan. 13, 2018, 2 p.m. PST by Joeana Lutha Mae Villo

We are quickly approaching the final days open for submission to the My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge. The deadline is January 18th at 5:00 pm Eastern Time (New York/USA.)

Here are couple of last-minute tips for a smooth entry process:

1. Begin your submission process several days before the cutoff time. This allows you to ensure everything you have been working on can be seamlessly integrated into the form.

2. Your submission will not be reviewed until you click the orange "Submit Entry" button at the top of the final review page. Please remember to do this!

3. Review the Challenge Guidelines to ensure your submission is complete. Pay particular attention to the judging criteria which will be the scorecard used to evaluate your entry.

4. Have any questions? Head over to the challenge forum and we would love to help you out.

Thanks so much, and good luck to all!

One Week Left to Submit

Jan. 11, 2018, 2 p.m. PST by Joeana Lutha Mae Villo

There's exactly one week left to submit your solution to the My Kidney Nutrition App Features Challenge!.

You're so close. You can do this!  

Remember, the final submission deadline is January 18th at 5:00 pm Eastern Time (New York/USA). No submissions received after this time will be accepted, so make sure to get yours in as soon as possible. Any last-minute questions or concerns can go right in the comments section of this update.


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