Friday, October 21, 2016

Designing Healthcare for People with Disabilities

USC Institute of Creative Technology digital
imaging globe.
On Thursday, October 20, 2016, the Special Hope Foundation met with members of the USC Center for Body Computing to discuss possible projects that would influence the health care industry to create accessible, digital products. Two other software, subject matter experts were invited to add useful information: Jenison Asuncion, the accessibility engineering manager at LinkedIn; Joe Perez, Bay Area entrepreneur and co-founder of Tastemade. 

Lynne O’Hara, executive director of The Special Hope Foundation, brought with her Matthew Holder, MD, MBA, an international leader in Developmental Medicine from Kentucky and philanthropist and grant maker, Ryan Easterly. Doctor Holder explained in-depth the problems with cognitive and developmental care in Kentucky. Children with intellectual disabilities and other rare problems are regularly mistreated by the health industry due to lack of information. Information is typically corralled into social circles and specialists and does not reach the general population of doctors that are often not able to diagnose issues of people with intellectual disabilities properly. For example, “a patient who comes into an emergency room and is banging his head against the wall may simply be constipated."

USC Institute of Creative Technologies avatar creator.
The Center for Body Computing at USC has a rich history of creating technology that helps people with disabilities. Albert Rizzo, PhD, the director of Medical Virtual Reality at the USC Institute of Creative Technologies presented ways that virtual reality has many uses from games that motivate rehabilitation to digitalized, virtual psychologists that soldiers can talk to about depression and P.T.S.D. symptoms. One of their goals is to use affordable technology so that it is accessible to the general health industry. Their setups typically involved an Oculus Rift, an Xbox Kinect, Raspberry Pi’s, and similar technology available to the general public at reasonable prices. We were also treated to a tour of their digital imaging lab where many Hollywood stars have visited to have themselves digitalized for motion picture CGI purposes. I stood on the same spots as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise. Hey, it’s something.

A major topic of the meeting was how to create empathy for people with disabilities in the medical, digital product industry. Glenn Fox, PhD, of the USC Peak Performance Institute talked about emotions and emphasized that gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions. He explained that gratitude is a stronger emotion than empathy and can be elicited through acts of altruism. The group discussed projects to create empathy in the industry and bring members of the healthcare industry together with people with disabilities in various formats. Another recurring topic was research and data collection for people with disabilities in order to attach various interfaces to the data. For example, sensors in the home and on an individual could recognize needs when they arise.

Lack of data, the broad spectrum of disabilities and the many interconnecting symptoms within them form a high hurdle for digital solutions at this time. However, cognitive systems such as IBM's Watson could leverage broad information on the needs of people with disabilities to bring the medical industry help where and when it is needed. Sensoring systems such as those being developed for the homes of the aging population could also include data for people with disabilities and notify others of problems in their homes.

There are many possibilities and solutions that are undiscovered at this time but efforts such as this collaboration at USC will help to uncover ways to include people with disabilities in mainstream healthcare technology. As we charge forward with exciting technology for untapped markets of billions of dollars, let’s remember that it takes very little effort to include people with disabilities in our solutions and it has the power to aid an entire world population, helping people care for themselves and be productive members of society.


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