Designing technology in the current, ever-changing healthcare climate is imperative to meeting patients where they are and giving them a voice. We are launching a 10-month series to amplify the patient voice when focusing on designing and using new technology. Each month, we will interview a patient advocate who personally and professionally knows the importance of developing technology, not only to manage their health but who truly innovates for their end user: the patient. On this episode of the Accelerate Health podcast, Kerry Amato, executive director, health innovation at HIMSS speaks to Brook McCall, director of the Tech Access Initiative at the United Spinal Association, about the importance of involving the patient from the start when designing technology.
McCall discusses her own inspiring personal journey as a patient, beginning with advocating for herself and how that evolved into a professional calling where she advocates for thousands of people each day. The benefits of technology impact all individuals with disabilities by breaking down barriers to gain independence and greater quality of life in unprecedented ways. However, there is still a lack of information flow between the patient as an end-user and the available technologies that are built specifically for the disabled community or that stemmed from some other need. Those barriers in particular led to the formation of the Tech Access Council. This initiative works to close the digital divide—especially in the disability community which has been largely less represented—by increasing awareness in the community and then fostering those relationships upward with the tech industry.
Shortly after the council was formed, the world was thrust into a global pandemic that challenged and inspired change to take place. McCall discusses how, as a quadriplegic, the past year has been extremely difficult. Although positives like an increase in telehealth capabilities occurred, “the reality for a lot in our community is spending a lot more time at home, there's a lot of barriers that keep people from the kind of community interaction that they deserve,” said McCall.
Amato and McCall then shift focus away from the pandemic to chat about where United Spinal and other tech communities go from here and what is on the horizon. McCall explains that voice technology has always been a huge hurdle for the community, especially when she first found herself in need in 2002. Over the past few years, access to phones and accessibility features on phones has seen a massive improvement along with environmental controls, smart speakers and virtual reality. The capabilities of virtual reality are endless, especially now with telehealth visits.
McCall ends the conversation by discussing advancements the Tech Access Council has made in just one short year, thanks this action-focused group comprised of tech industry engineers, medical professionals and members of the Tech Access user group. The group giving the opportunity to share firsthand experiences and provide actionable feedback to those designing the tech they are using, has proven revolutionary. Amato emphasizes the important work McCall is doing and how voices like hers need to be amplified to help inform better products and solutions for the end user.
The views and opinions expressed in this content or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.
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