Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

TOPCATS LISTENING TO PATIENTS' COMPLAINTS PITT MED STUDENTS DEVISE AN APP TO GAUGE FRUSTRATIONS [Corrected 07/16/15]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

TOPCATS LISTENING TO PATIENTS' COMPLAINTS PITT MED STUDENTS DEVISE AN APP TO GAUGE FRUSTRATIONS [Corrected 07/16/15]

Article excerpt

If the winners of a national prize competition tell us anything about the American health care system, it's that patients are often frustrated with doctors who are oblivious to their sentiments.

Four University of Pittsburgh medical students took home the National Board of Medical Examiners competition prize of $5,000 and the opportunity to develop their product with a smartphone app called TOPCATS, or Trainee-Oriented Patient Communication Assessment System. The long name describes a pretty simple concept: Patients are often less than satisfied with their interactions with doctors but don't always know how to voice their frustration.

Patients "often feel powerless about the whole situation" when they encounter less than ideal doctors, said Myung Sun Choi, one of the team members and a rising fourth-year Pitt medical student. Sometimes, she said, those patients take to online forums to rant, but it's not exactly constructive feedback.

So in classic millennial fashion, the med students turned to the power of their iPhones and Androids to solve the problem. TOPCATS allows both patients and students to rate how they think an appointment went. Patients are also able to give feedback on how the student performed.

Ms. Choi, along with teammates Jennifer Hu, Abby Koff and Devan Patel, presented the app in a humor-filled presentation, complete with a video of Ms. Koff acting as a doctor with no bedside manner. The app, they said, would ask patients questions like: Did the medical student wash his/her hands, introduce himself/herself, use easy to understand words, or ask how you felt about your diagnosis?

The patient would then answer a question about how he or she felt - sad, angry, frustrated, excited, optimistic, bored - while interacting with the medical student.

Those patient sections correspond with student sections that ask the user to reflect on the patient's emotions and complete a self- assessment about his/her overall performance. …

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