Student Startup Remedy Addresses Health Care for the Homeless – USC Viterbi

Remedy team members (left to right): Rohan Jeni Varghese, Hannah Lee, Isha Sanghvi, Vivianna Camarillo, Jake Futterman, Ashwan Kadam. (NOTE: Team members not shown in this photo are Nicole Tamarov (USC), William King (Duke), Yuanyang Lu (UCSD)). PHOTO/HANNAH LEE.

In the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s CEE 486 course, students who have been tasked with creating engineering solutions to community problems are repeatedly told, “Live a day in the life of ‘user for whom you are developing a product’. For Hannah Lee and her collaborators, this meant hours of extensive research with healthcare providers, physicians and end users for their envisioned innovation: portable storage of prescription drugs for homeless people via a soft pouch. and flexible that can be worn comfortably on your person.

Interviews and surveys with health professionals, including USC Keck School of Medicine Street Medicine director Brett Feldman has repeatedly pointed out a lack of consistency in health care for people living in transition.

Says Lee, a human biology major at USC, “When we spoke to Dr. Feldman, he shared that first of all he can’t find the patients sometimes, but at the same time they don’t get regular treatment because their drugs are often stolen.

Other doctors shared that prescribing certain drugs, such as insulin, is unsafe, due to the lack of temperature-controlled storage on the streets.

A member of Impact on the Los Angeles community (LACI), USC’s first student-run consulting organization to focus on nonprofit and social purpose organizations, Lee and neuroscience major Isha Sanghvi enrolled in CEE 486 after other LACI members have shared their experiences with him. They started with a team of six, but three members moved on, leaving Lee, Sanghvi and recent alumnus Vivianna Camarillo behind.

“The class has proven to be a great way to both tackle big picture issues while being user first,” Sanghvi said.

As the first iteration of the class took students to a refugee camp in Greece, COVID-19 restrictions limited the scope of the 2020-2021 academic year for students around the world. Instead of traveling to identify spaces where students could make an impact, they looked closer to home.

Said Sanghvi: “The pandemic has really exposed the structural health inequalities that existed in healthcare. I felt really helpless during the first half of the pandemic, and wanted to find a way to sustainably solve some of the issues that arose, because I was young, healthy, and in a pretty privileged position to give back.

With a strong commitment to working in healthcare, the team continued interviews to learn more about the challenges faced by healthcare professionals in seeing patients, treating them effectively and engaging them in treatment plans. consistent.

“When we spoke to Professor Feldman, he described challenges we’ve never really heard of – although he was sensitive to homelessness in Los Angeles. The specific issues he was describing were so new and we we were saying a lot, ‘how do you solve this challenge when you can’t even find the patients?’ Said Sanghvi.

The more the team investigated, the more urgent the issue of drugs stolen from the backpacks or tents of homeless people became as a first step in helping homeless people get better health care.

More orange bottles

The Remedy team prioritized user needs and feedback to better understand the product’s viability. From pilot programs to focus groups, the team tested several prototypes and identified other issues that need to be addressed to make this solution truly accessible to everyone.

“At first we weren’t thinking about things like accessibility,” Lee said. “But a lot of the non-housed patients have fine motor difficulties, so even opening the orange pill bottle is really difficult because it requires two perfectly capable hands.”

A prototype of Remedy's soft pouch for storing pills.  PHOTO/HANNAH LEE.

A prototype of Remedy’s soft pouch for storing pills. PHOTO/HANNAH LEE.

Getting the product from concept to manufacturing required design changes. But a major obstacle to scaling up operations is the availability of funds.

“We need money for pretty much every process, like prototyping, 3D printing, large-scale manufacturing – so that’s become the biggest limiting factor. Currently we have a backlog of 500 orders that we haven’t been able to fill,” Lee said.

Now with rewards from Strauss FoundationAthena Challenge and Min Family ChallengeLee said they hope to develop two teams: one focused on the pillbox and the other on insulin and temperature-controlled storage.

At the same time, the Remedy team has three pilot programs underway; they will test prototypes in Madison, Wisconsin, New York and Los Angeles, where they will follow vendors weekly and help collect data.

“I hope we can encourage more genuine innovation that puts unhoused patients first,” Sanghvi said. “Our best ideas and features for the product came directly from conversations with homeless patients about their lived experiences. My work with Remedy has helped me better see a space where social entrepreneurship can improve health outcomes. health of unhoused patients.

Posted on August 3, 2022

Last updated August 3, 2022

Julio V. Miller