A potential pandemic outbreak is a very real threat the world faces at any point in time. An outbreak of Ebola (or similar disease) affects essentially all parts of the healthcare industry, and we began with a broad project scope, which were narrowed down over the 8 weeks.
The focus was on how the current healthcare system is structured, and how a pandemic situation would stress that system. What type of system could our team design that would best help patients, doctors, staff, and the general population during a pandemic situation?
Philip Allen Green, MD, is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. He currently lives and works in Walla Walla, Washington. Dr. Green knew the problems in the current system of dealing with pandemics. We started with thirteen different promps he prepared for us, ranging from donning and doffing gear medical gear, to family communication when their loved ones are in the hospital. For this project, we were specifically looking for solutions based on data from the town of Walla Walla, Washington, however the findings are applicable to cities across the nation of any size. Dr. Green had three specific areas we intended to focus on. The pre-hospital stage, which is before a patient even reaches the hospital. The patient arrival stage, when the patient arrives at the hospital. And the third stage, taking patients from hospital to hospital. Although these are the main stages he focused on when discussing the problem space, there are many different subtopics which fall under these main stages that needed to be focused on.
By doing a popular media scan, we quickly realized that fear was one of the most dangerous factors during a pandemic. Alleviating and addressing this fear could save thousands or millions of lives. Getting the right information is crucial, but difficult with the current systems in place.
At the beginning of stage 2, we were placed in groups. During our first meeting, we came prepared with out favorite and strongest ideas. In brainstorming session we focused on combining these ideas into six ideas which were taken into the next stage of the project. We took notes on our laptops and used sticky notes to develop our strongest ideas and vote.
During our meetings, we evaluated our ideas based on how difficult it would be to implement, the feasibility, total number of people impacted, and many other criteria. We narrowed our ideas from 6 to 3 during stage 2, and from 3 to 1 at the end of stage 3. We made an evaluation chart that listed the groups of people impacted on the x axis, and stage of the hospital experience on the y axis. We plotted our ideas to visualize the impact of each idea, helping us decide on our final concept.
The problems highlighted were the ones we targeted.
After reflecting on our final product, I feel that we came up with a very practical solution to a vast problem that affects many different industries. We were able to leverage smartphones to reach the largest amount of people, in an effort to keep them calm and informed. This industry seems to be behind in terms of technology, which has a detrimental effect on how information is spread and patients are treated. Furthermore, developing solutions for the healthcare industry was difficult because of existing platforms that are hard to interface with.
It was challenging designing a system that would notify people, whether they were staff or the general public, without running the risk of initiating panic or alarm. Another challenge was designing a system for patients who were currently in the hospital with a disease or illness. We had to realize that different patients are in different conditions, and while some may be able to talk, some would be unable to speak or move, so designing interactive systems with any sort of touch interface for a patient wouldn’t be feasible.
If I were to keep working on this project, I would hope to talk to more healthcare experts like doctors or CDC workers in how I would go about working with hospitals and clinics to create an app that would allow patients to correspond with staff without violating HIPPA regulations. Developing the app wouldnt be too difficult, however the main problem lies in protecting patient medical records, as well as GPS information.