Using Innovation to Address Health Inequities
Guest blog by Adam Devon and Darsan Sadacharam, Queen's medical students in the class of 2020.
As medical students, early clinical encounters are invaluable.
These clinical encounters provide exposure to patients and their stories. In addition to learning medical information, students are flooded with patient narratives that begin to shape their view of medicine. Most importantly, students begin to gain insight into the challenges that exist within our healthcare system.
We learned about the power of medical narratives firsthand through a clinical experience, during which a patient came in with severe mechanical back pain. For this problem, the physician recommended pain medications and physiotherapy. Unfortunately, the patient did not have physiotherapy coverage and was unable to personally bear the cost. Without any alternatives, the patient was left to rehab on their own. This health inequity deeply resonated with us. It is this common narrative that motivated us to try to help patients in this position.
This past summer, we had the privilege of participating in the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative through the Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre. This program allowed us to jump into the space of healthcare innovation. The supportive and collaborative environment at Queen’s allowed us to explore ways to improve care for back pain patients. Working alongside a fellow Queen’s student, Dylan Brookes (Computing ‘20), we have been developing a web-application for primary care providers to help prescribe home-based exercise and mindfulness therapy to their patients with low back pain, who are unable to access or afford physiotherapy. We plan to evaluate the impact of this platform in the fall, and hope it can provide a solution for patients unable to access physiotherapy.
We have been fortunate to gain some valuable insights from the Queen’s Community. A common sentiment shared by many medical professionals is that medicine is far too clinic centric. There is a need for initiatives that educate and empower patients to take on a larger role in managing their health. In recent years, health equity interventions have been leveraging advances in research and technology to ensure patients do not continue to fall through the cracks. We hope that our project will provide patients with the knowledge and resources to take an active role in their rehabilitation process.
Healthcare providers continue to consistently demonstrate the desire to improve the status quo. With burgeoning technological advancements, a unique opportunity now presents itself to the healthcare field. We now house the capacity to challenge the status quo and develop solutions that alleviate existing barriers to equitable care. As long as we continue to be inspired and guided by the stories and experiences of patients, impactful advancements are sure to come.