PROBLEM-SOLVERS: In their first year of medical school at the Perelman School of Medicine, Phil Williams, Naveen Jain, and Jun Jeon attended Problem Night, a Penn HealthX event designed to pair people who had been thinking about health care problems with those who wanted to help solve them. They decided to form a team and mulled over a couple of ideas before landing on their passion project: SpectrumScores, a website that helps connect patients with LGBTQ+ friendly providers. “[Our adviser, Katherine Choi from the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation] told us to focus on the problem and not the product,” Jain says. “That really set us in the right direction. We were thinking about clever solutions, but we were not thinking about issues we were really passionate about solving.”
PASSION PROJECT: The need for LGBTQ+ friendly providers is acute because many of these patients may have experienced overt discrimination by physicians, or have been treated by someone insensitive or unknowledgeable about their particular needs. These unsatisfactory experiences make someone reluctant to seek any medical care. “I consider myself a member of the LGBT community, and for me and for just about everyone you talk to, bad experiences in health care settings are part of the way life is,” Williams says.
MORE TRAINING: Williams says med students only receive an average of five hours of LGBTQ-targeted care training during four years of school. Many physicians, though, would like to have more training to care for this community.
HOW IT WORKS: SpectrumScores users can search by specialty, provider name, condition, service offered, and then address, city, state, or zip code. The site is currently active in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York. The Spectrum Score is based on four criteria: whether the office is a welcoming environment, if the provider has inclusive processes, LGBTQ+ knowledge, and overall satisfaction. Patients can leave reviews for providers that are either anonymous or include a username, sexual orientation or gender identity, and city.
SOME SAFEGUARDS: As medical students, Jain, Jeon, and Williams also understand the need to protect providers from some of the problems inherent in crowdsourcing. As a safeguard, they’re developing a reporting system where people can flag comments that are flagrantly inappropriate, and are working on bumping up comments that are rated by other users as helpful.
LOOKING AHEAD: The goal is to convert their email list of 2,000 names into people who leave reviews on the site, and expand into more cities. “We seem to have come up with a problem that people are incredibly passionate about solving,” Williams says. “We are first and foremost trying to use this tool to help as many patients as we can.”