In 2014, I was a research intern at the Veteran's Affairs Health Care System of Palo Alto, collaborating with Press-Ganey in developing software which uses sentiment analysis to understand veterans’ feedback and provide patients with a higher quality hospital stay. At hospitals like the VA, manually scanning through each patient review was often tedious and difficult to manage, resulting in a lack of voice for each veteran who stayed at the hospital. Our VET project (Veterans' Experiences and Thoughts) project was designed to use sentiment analysis (positive, negative, neutral) to determine which amenities at the hospital were satisfactory and which ones had to be improved. This allowed for healthcare providers and doctors to have convenient access to patient reviews and records, and finally, through a renovated experience at the hospital, the veterans were shown the appreciation that they deserved. Here is the website I made in 2014 for the VET project: link
Two years later, I signed up for the Make School Summer Academy App program, with no concrete idea in mind towards the beginning of the program. I was unsure of whether to create an app that would plan your trip based on the weather and environmental conditions, or one that would allow foreigners and native speakers to teach you languages. I deliberated on these ideas for a long time with my mentor but could not figure out what to do. One day, as I was sitting in front of the laptop at Plug & Play, I thought back to the internship I had done two years ago, in which I utilized data analysis to help patients in need. I talked to my mentor about it and instantly knew that this was the project I wanted to pursue: to use something I had learned in the past to build an innovative creation.
What it does
Care lets patients input reviews (on a tablet that belongs to the hospital) in a multitude of languages and uses text analysis to figure out the sentiment of the review along with some keywords (or main points) extracted from the text. Therefore, any foreigner or non-English speaker is still able to input reviews in their own language and have it be translated into English. Hospitals can then improve their services by briefly looking over the reviews that they’ve accumulated over time organized in a simple list form, providing patients with better quality experience and ultimately improving their health and well-being, so that no patient will ever have to feel unappreciated and unsatisfied with their healthcare again.
How I built it
I built Care using Swift over the course of around 3-4 weeks or so, working on it from 9am-5pm everyday at Make School as well as at home. I actually started off in the summer with absolutely no experience with Swift, so I was doubtful about whether I really could create a fully functioning app by the end of the summer. Using the skills that my mentors taught me through workshops and one-on-one discussions, I gradually began to build the UI with XCode. It took a long time to figure out how to link each button to the next screen and how frames/constraints worked, but over the 2 months of Make School I had a solid grasp on the techniques. The coding was by far the hardest for me; I ran into countless errors that I didn't know how to deal with, and spent lunches and breaks to search up tutorials on Youtube and blog posts about Swift programming. My favorite part was using APIs that I obtained from Programmable Web, whether it was language translation tools, the sentiment analysis of user text, etc. On the last day of Make School, I was extremely honored to pitch my app onstage in front of all of the students, staff, and Jeremy, one of the founders of Make School, as well.
Challenges I ran into
The main challenge I ran into was not being able to deal with the errors that constantly appeared on the screen, one after another. I would add one line and have 20 lines suddenly be marked with a red X, and spend days on end trying to figure out where I made mistakes. In addition to asking questions to my mentors, I also used as many resources as I could to learn design and code outside of what we had been taught at Make School. Some of the many resources I used was the Swift textbook, Youtube tutorials, Stack Overflow, countless blogposts, etc. Although it took me more time to fix errors and to look up new code ideas than actually programming the app itself, I was extremely glad that in the end, I was able to produce a functioning app that could potentially lessen the burden that doctors, nurses, and patients have to face in the hospital.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
The accomplishment I am most proud of is being able to utilize what I had learned two years ago as an inexperienced intern working on sentiment analysis and integrate it into the first app that I had ever made and shipped out. I love that my app's goal is to help other people; when I think back to the internship at VA, all I saw were veterans, some who were missing limbs and others who were injured, being wheeled around the facility back and forth. I knew that as a veteran today in America(from the Cold War, Vietnam War, Korean War...), it is not often that each and every single one of them is getting the attention that they deserve. This app may have been a small step to give them a voice that will be heard and acknowledged during their stay at the hospital, but I am so proud that it is able to help, even if it makes a small change.
An accomplishment I am proud of was being selected for Top 5 Apps/Games in MSSA Sunnyvale this past year. I had the wonderful opportunity to pitch Care in front of all of the students and their parents, the mentors, tech professionals in the Silicon Valley, as well as Jeremy Rossman, one of the founders of Make School. I'm happy to see that my hard work has given me such an amazing experience at Make School and opportunity to demonstrate my efforts.
What I learned
3 months ago, I shadowed a data scientist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation in San Carlos for one morning. He was working at the Innovation Center and talked to us about how his team was striving to aid elderly people with independent living at home through medical tracking and AI-controlled monitoring. I immediately thought of the veterans at the VA three years ago and I told him all about the project as well as my app, which he was very impressed with. I am grateful that what I learned three years ago at VA for just one summer will give me knowledge that I am using three years later, as a rising senior. I learned that data science, which is a combination of statistics and AI, is becoming increasingly used in any field, such as medical imaging, surgery, automobiles, architecture, etc... It is one of the fields that I am looking to pursue when I go to college in a year because of its wide scope and the way that it is able to help so many people in need.
What's next for Care - Renovating the Patient Experience
Right when I began working on this app, I knew that my ultimate goal in the future would be to have hospitals and health care centers around the world use it on a daily basis. I would love to partner up with local clinics and have each patient that visits to give a short review on their experience, and have the hospitals improve different aspects to their amenities (food, staff, location, cleanliness...) based on their suggestions. I am working on enhancing the app so that both the translate feature and the sentiment analysis feature is more accurate, and that this app can be more inclusive. For example, instead of just being targeted towards hospitals and health care centers, it can also work for hotels and airports around the world.