Brandon Ngo & Xavier Walden
In January of 2019, Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI) students Brandon Ngo and Xavier Walden traveled to Santiago, Costa Rica to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting. On the trip, Ngo and Walden represented the ITI discipline and were joined by a mix of other CCAPS students applying their education in other disciplines (construction management, health science management and integrated behavioral health). An interdisciplinary endeavor, the students worked collectively to improve the operations of a small health care clinic.
We spoke to Ngo and Walden about the technology solutions they recommended for that clinic and their experience taking ITI abroad.
Tell us about the problem that you were helping to solve in Costa Rica.
Walden: The project we worked on was a small clinic in Santiago. The clinic was primarily for basic check-ups, and yet appointment wait times are very long—up to two months. There was an opportunity for that clinic to evolve and grow into a more technologically advanced operation, and we were tasked with proposing ways that the clinic might leverage technology to make staff’s jobs easier, improving the efficiency of the whole clinic.
Ngo: There were also cultural nuances that made this problem a challenge for us to approach. There were different laws that we had to wrap our minds around, such as the difference between HIPAA privacy laws in the US and Costa Rica’s privacy laws.
How did you tackle the problem?
Ngo: We worked several hours a day on the project, working at the University of Costa Rica San Ramon campus’s library. We started a Google doc to catalog all of our ideas, dividing and conquering the thinking required to approach this work. Overall, we enjoyed the research process, and it was especially cool to brainstorm technology-related solutions that the clinic might actually use.
Did you have to factor resource limitations into the ideas you brainstormed?
Walden: We weren’t working with a budget; we didn’t know what that might be. A lot of the solutions we came up with would be expensive, we knew. Our goal all along was to recommend the best possible ideas, not necessarily to solve the problem of how it would be paid for.
What technology solutions did you recommend to the clinic?
Walden: Brandon and I came up with three recommendations for the clinic. The first was to implement a cloud server and to digitize patient files so they could be accessed efficiently. Right now in Santiago patient files are in paper form, and if patients travel to San Ramone to see a doctor and their files are there, then they don’t have access to their files if they go to this clinic in Santiago.
Ngo: Our second recommendation was to leverage an app for appointments. An app for your phone that would allow patients to set up their appointments remotely would be huge for the Santiago clinic because currently, the staff there spend half the day just setting up appointments, and the second half treating patients. With an app to simplify the appointment process, clinic staff would be freed up to see more patients in a day.
Walden: And lastly, we recommended that the clinic try out a tele-health alternative for people who can’t travel to the clinic. Tele-health is basically an appointment that you have with your doctor via Skype, or a service like it. This would allow clinic physicians to see more patients in a day, as well. It’s perfect for patients who might have a contagious sickness, too. With a tele-health appointment, they wouldn’t have to leave their home to speak with their doctor.
Ngo: We presented our recommendations to the main nurse at the clinic, and she was very impressed with what we came up with. That was pretty cool.
What are your big takeaways from this trip and project abroad?
Ngo: It was interesting to take what we’d been learning about IT and to apply it to a place and culture that neither of us was familiar with. Learning about the culture there was eye-opening. It helped me understand my education from a totally different point of view.
Walden: Just being there and learning the differences between the United States and Costa Rica, breaking down assumptions I had before going into the project, was refreshing. It was also very satisfying to give recommendations and to see that they were appreciated and valued.