de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging

May 5, 2022

Scholar Spotlight: Michael Drake

Michael Drake is a 4th year BSN student, and the recipient of the 2021 Queen Silvia Nursing Award, hosted by the Queen of Sweden. Drake’s idea for the award is a platform that allows patients and their caregivers to easily share information with medical providers. His areas of interest include acute care, palliative care, end of life care

Why did you choose nursing?

Years ago, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I quit my job and school to be their full-time end-of-life caregiver, up until her passing in March of 2018. After she passed away, I felt that I could not go back to what I was doing before. I love nursing and was inspired by our hospice nurses, so I decided then and there that I would become a nurse. It’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.

What has been an unforgettable experience during your time at the school of nursing?

In spring quarter, I needed to care for my partner’s grandfather, who was going through their own end-of-life, which required me to travel to a small town in Colorado. This meant that I’d be missing some of my clinical days and hours, so I was concerned that my teachers wouldn’t be understanding. That wasn’t the case at all – two of my clinical teachers, Gaylene Altman and Amy Walker, were extremely supportive and gave me the flexibility I needed to care for my partner’s grandfather. Amy Walker went one step further and mentored me throughout that experience – completely of her own volition. The support I received has been the highlight of my time at UW.

How has your experience with the school of nursing helped with your career trajectory?

Well, I’m a high school dropout – I really struggled through school for a long, long time. So, even though I got good grades in my pre-reqs at Bellevue College, I really didn’t think I would get into a place like UW. It means a lot to me that I got into the School of Nursing at UW. Being educated by leaders in the field, having experiences, especially clinical experiences, I would not have had at other nursing schools has made me a more well-rounded student and nurse.

Could you briefly describe your idea for the award you received?

The idea I submitted for the Queen Silvia Nursing Award is a platform for caregivers of patients to store and share important information for their care. For example, if you are a family caregiver of someone with dementia and you are working with an organization that sends certified nursing assistants (CNA) or respite caregivers, you can share information through this technology platform to let the new caregivers or CNAs know who the patient is, what they like, what they dislike, what medications they are on, what to do in an emergency, how to navigate the house, and how to accommodate language and communication preferences.

If you are a physician and you’re receiving a patient who has autism, a caregiver or family member can use this service to send a QR code so that the provider can see what they need to know prior to their first visit. Does the patient have sensory issues? Does the patient need earmuffs or dimmer lighting because of sensory needs? What’s the best way to communicate to the patient? Is the patient verbal or selectively mute? All of this information is important, and sometimes is requested and recorded by a medical assistant or the front desk, usually before the first meeting with the provider.  However, it can take a lot of time and relies upon the patient or family caregiver to verbally report the information.  The platform I’m working on gives patients and their caregivers access and ability to edit this information and share it safely to anyone who needs it.

Patients do a lot of the stuff my idea wants to do already, but they do it with a pen and paper, or they print out their information and put it in the folder. When I was taking care of my mother, I kept all of her medications in an excel spreadsheet, and I would just share it with people who were coming in. Often they didn’t know how to use excel so that was difficult. So, my idea is to make information sharing for patients easier by being accessible and easy to use, especially because a lot of healthcare information systems are not any of those things.

Where are you at with this idea?

It is in the customer research and discovery phase. I just got done with the University of Washington’s CoMotion’s I-Corps program. I got to interview many, many different people, which was a lot of fun. I’ve got a wide variety of perspectives on this problem I’m trying to solve with QRx. Currently, I have a design prototype that demonstrates how it will work, but the systems behind it and all that stuff is going to have to wait until after I graduate.

What have you been hearing in the interviews?

That the problems people experience in our healthcare system with care coordination and transition management are a huge issue. For example, I talked to a healthcare worker at a local clinic. They’re a specialist who had a patient come in with a problem that originally happened in another hospital, which required them to get an MRI scan. The patient got the MRI scans either at that hospital or another organization, probably a small diagnostic clinic, so the specialist couldn’t see them easily. In a perfect world, you would call in to the clinic and say, “Hey! I have patient ‘so-and-so’; could you please send me those MRI scans? The patient wants you to share it”, and they send it over.  However, it isn’t that easy, and even if they decide to send the MRIs it can still take weeks to receive them. Often patients can’t wait a week because they have a serious health issue, so instead the specialist will just order another MRI. This is totally unnecessary, and the patient pays for that, or if that patient is on Medicare or Medicaid, then we all pay for it. Also, for some procedures like X-rays, they and others get exposed to radiation unnecessarily.  So, talking to that specialist and other providers, they wish they had a way for patients to share that information easily.

I had one interview with a person who was a patient that saw lots of physicians.  They talked about how they have to bring medications to physicians’ appointments, who often spend lots of time struggling to reconcile it all.  The patient told me of a time it took three hours for a new provider to go through all their medications and past medical history. Let’s say they had a list or a program or solution to help facilitate that process, like the one I’m proposing – that would have made the patient and the physician’s experience a lot better.

What interests you about healthy aging?

I think the value of a society is in how it treats the most vulnerable. Older adults, especially older adults of color or from marginalized backgrounds, are not treated very well in the United States. This is the case for all people with dementia, but especially African Americans with dementia – they are not given the attention or the care that they deserve. I think that is awful and unacceptable, and I personally feel that it is important to work with groups of patients and populations that need that attention, that compassion, and someone to be there for them when it’s difficult, to advocate for their needs. That’s why I like working with older populations; at least in the United States, these patient populations are not a priority for our culture, and as a nurse it’s a priority for me. That’s the reason why I want to work in palliative care. Palliative does work with lots of people with dementia, and you generally work with older adults going through a serious illness.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ve had a great education at the University of Washington, but I am a nursing student in the pandemic, so that has definitely affected my educational opportunities. So I am trying to get a nursing residency for after graduation in something that will expose me to lots of different experiences and give me a well-rounded education on how to provide care. I’m looking for something in acute care or emergency care, and after a few years, I want to move into palliative care. In palliative, it helps if you have acute care experience in intensive or emergency departments. So I’m aiming for both of those with the eventual goal of moving into gerontological palliative care.

Is there anything else you want to share?

If anyone comes from an engineering, technical, or user experience design background in medicine that’s interested in solving these problems, definitely contact me! I’d love to talk to people who are passionate about solving the types of issues my idea is trying to solve!