Health care is a significant stumbling block in everyone’s life these days, from the stress of escalating costs to the difficulty of finding doctors covered under one’s insurance plan. And for members of the LGBTQ community, the possibility for discrimination by medical providers makes a hard situation even harder. A study by the National Institutes of Health found “that the homosexual population have difficulties of access to health services as a result of heteronormative attitudes imposed by health professionals.” It’s not just you–this is a problem for the entire community.
However, help is on the way. Recently, three University of Pennsylvania medical students created a user-friendly app to help connect members of the LGBTQ community with LGBTQ-friendly health care providers. The students, Naveen Jain, Phil Williams, and Jun Jeon, developed this idea during a Penn HealthX competition.
Generally, these competitions bring together medical students with business and engineering students, but in this case, all three students study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. ”We decided that we were going to try and go a bit rogue from the competition— form a group just made up of medical students and find the expertise to move forward along the way,” Williams explained in an NBC News article.
It seems to have worked, as the three developed an idea that serves a clear and present need in the medical industry and the LGBTQ community. However, without anyone from the technical and business end of things in their group, they had to scramble for help. “Fortunately for us, my brother actually has really extensive coding experience, and he has agreed to help me in good faith,” Jeon told NBC News. “He’s in charge of developing the back end. We’ve actually outsourced a graphic designer— my brother’s friend — to design all the relevant graphics that are displayed on the front end.”
The SpectrumSccores app allows users to write reviews of particular physicians. While the users are anonymized, certain basic facts–location, sexual orientation, gender identity–will be on display to allow future users to determine whether these reviews could apply to their own situation. However, in light of the additional difficulties often faced by LGBTQ people of color, the lack of information relating to race may be seen by some as a shortcoming.
SpectrumScores is taking this fact under consideration. “We have not put anything to indicate their race yet, but [with] later user feedback, if that would prove helpful for the physicians and the user community, then we could put that on there as well,” Jeon told NBC News.
While the app was initially planned for a late August release in a few select cities, at the moment it is still on hold. In a statement posted on their facebook page September 1, the development team explained, “Many of you have personally messaged us with loads of useful feedback on features we could integrate into SpectrumScores, and we’re humbled by your enthusiasm. We’ve decided to push back our launch into September so we can incorporate as many of your suggestions as possible.”
After hearing from patients and providers all over the country, the trio have also decided to add more cities to their initial rollout. So perhaps Richmonders can look for it to arrive here sooner than may have been initally expected. We’ll keep you posted.