“Why do you think the state of senior healthcare is so poor despite the advances in technology?” I asked this question to a pulmonologist at a social gathering, whom I happened to overhear lamenting about the state of senior health care in America. Our ensuing conversation led to an internship that sought to remedy this problem. I came to understand the difficult process of consultation for elderly patients. Most of the visits involved routine activities like measuring the vitals and progress, but had a large fixed overhead – scheduling appointments, transportation, waiting for the consult, etc. For the elderly, many of these activities are risky.
Do seniors have to physically visit the doctor for routine visits? Could we give them better options? I saw an opportunity to eliminate the need for physical visits, if done right, and increase the number of consults. I surveyed patients via email and printouts at the doctor’s office – they wanted to consult with their doctor more often but remotely. One piece of technology that has pervaded all our lives is a physically small but very powerful computer – the smartphone. Why not leverage that? I proposed a handheld composition of interactive software to analyze inputs from built in sensors, provide patients with audio-video interaction, allowing them to send data to the doctor, and schedule future appointments. It also included hardware enhancements to add a couple of multipurpose sensors so that it eliminates additional equipment purchases. The proposal was well-received by the elderly patients.
They appreciated how it addressed their needs directly and clearly. The doctor thought it was novel and so we are filing a patent application. Because of the pandemic, it was imperative that the elderly limited their exposure, given they were in the high risk category. My solution seems more relevant than before. I plan to continue working on this solution both on the technical development and the humanities aspect of making sure that it will serve the elderly well. An engineering degree in computer science is going to be an essential first step but I plan to follow that with a graduate degree too.