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Med Students Create Innovative LGBT Healthcare App

Med Students Create LGBT Healthcare App

The new app aims to put more power into the hands of LGBTQ patients and improve their quality of care.

The three young founders of SpectrumScores met each other while brainstorming ideas for PennHealthX, a competition at the Perelman School of Health at University of Pennsylvania, in which student entrepreneurs develop healthcare-focused concepts. The app will connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer patients with doctors who have been recognized as LGBTQ-friendly by advocacy organizations and academic medical centers. Doctors will even be rated and reviewed by the app users themselves.

“Everything here is voluntary. You can remain anonymous when you write a review,” said Jun Jeon, one of the app’s creators, to NBC News. “We have not put anything to indicate their race yet, but [with] later user feedback, if that would prove helpful for the physicians and the user community, then we could put that on there as well.”

Jeon, and fellow app co-founders, Naveen Jain and Phil Williams (all medical students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine), initially considered focusing on issues such as blood pressure and acne before deciding on their final direction. “We all had a collective realization that [those ideas] weren’t really reflective of what we were actually passionate about,” said Williams.

Typically, the PennHealthX program connects a medical student, business student, and engineering student to team-up on the project, which right from the start makes this group a little unusual. “We decided that we were going to try and go a bit rogue from the competition — form a group just made up of medical students and find the expertise to move forward along the way,” Williams explains. And the trio was quite resourceful and creative in rounding out their team.

“Fortunately for us, my brother actually has really extensive coding experience, and he has agreed to help me in good faith,” Jeon said. “He’s actually in charge of developing the back end ... and we’ve actually outsourced a graphic designer — my brother’s friend — to design all the relevant graphics that are displayed on the front end.”

Statistically, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience discrimination when trying to access health care, and LGBTQ people of color are particularly vulnerable. Jeon, Jain, and Williams designed their app with hopes it will help narrow the gap with these types of disparities.

SpectrumScores will have identity-related information displayed next to a chosen username when writing reviews of physicians. The information being displayed will help other users determine how helpful another user’s review may be to them personally. While the information will include items such as their location, sexual orientation and gender identity, the app does not (in its current design) ask its users for their racial or ethnic identity.

Upon its release, which is slated for the end of August, the app will initially focus on select cities — such as Philadelphia, New York City and Chicago — but the app’s founders hope to quickly expand SpectrumScores’ reach across the U.S.

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