As I watch my friends, family and the nation age, the need for caring, compassionate and competent geriatricians is critical. Often, when we work with older people we stumble into a moment of drama when we’re listening to them tell a story. Its fine to read history in books, but to talk with someone who’s lived it is precious and it really helps. In this study, we observe the interactions of a geriatric waiting room at Boston Medical Center and aim at expanding the geriatrics knowledge base through initiatives that promote basic, clinical and health services research regarding the health of older adults.
The time for observing and interviewing patients was done by signing up time slots on a Google Calendar. The observation began on Wednesday at 10 o’clock in the morning, which is said to be a busy time when most patients make their appointments. There were approximately 10 patients who had come to see their doctors.
While there, we observed the patients and their caretakers, and conducted two semi-structured interviews focused around what they thought of the kiosk currently in place, and what other things they thought the waiting room could use along with my ideas.
The first thing that we observed was that the patients have been coming to the clinic since past 1-3 years. They said that they never came alone and always had somebody to take care of them. The caretakers were from a wide range say grand-children aged 10-20 to sons/daughters/better half aged 20-65. This leads to an important point that when we design something we also need to think about those people too.
Secondly we observed that the average waiting time for patients was about ten minutes to an hour. This is another factor which needs to be taken care of.I spoke to the patients about the kiosk(Tania) that was positioned in a corner out of sight from the rest of the waiting room, and they said “We never used it !”.This was because when people walked in, most of time they go to the help desk which is in the front and sign up for their appointments, and then had seats just opposite to the front desk and never bothered about the existence of the kiosk.
Also when talking to a Mr. and Mss. Bell aged 65 and 60 as they said, “We are happy talking to each other. Sometimes I read magazines and I don’t want any computer” was the answer when asked about my idea of an agent to help them. They also strongly said that they didn’t want any music or game to entertain them. Another problem identified was that there was a patient from Somalia (age 63), she could speak only Arabic and she also had no computer literacy.
It seems that the main problem which needs to be addressed is how to make the system attractive and easy to use,to patients with little to no computer knowledge. The main issue that I found from the BMC observational study was that people did not find the system to be something they needed to use. This may be due to the fact that they never noticed it, or because they did not find the purpose of the system, but either way it is a serious issue that must be addressed. This issue will be the focus of our team project, in which we hope to address the problem. The main objective would be to find new and innovative ways of making an interactive system that both attracts as well as educates elderly patients.