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Kathryn W.

 PATIENT IMPACT CHALLENGE AWARD 

Toronto, ON – Deaf people and people with severe hearing loss are 4% of the population, but health care systems are persistently inaccessible to us. (Even when we are good lipreaders and go in person to a clinical setting, many times they put on masks!!)

When there are results to receive or appointments to make, we go through the agonizing process of finding someone to phone for us. The TTY technology deaf people used to use is obsolete. Many businesses and governments are just now catching up and installing these devices, but even TDI, the organization founded to promote TTY adoption, no longer recommends it. Most deaf people have transitioned to email, SMS, and social media to communicate directly. Unfortunately, most health institutions consider email insecure for health information – although for years they would happily share it with a third party TTY relay operator!

In the past year, my family health care team has adopted Wellx, an IT solution that includes a secure website and a smartphone app enabling us to ask questions to the practice and for them to send notifications to us. There no longer needs to be a third party in the communication. We no longer have to make an appointment just to ask a question. It is crystal clear what they said. For all patients, this asynchronous communication is more efficient than a phone call. For us, it’s the difference between inaccessible and accessible for this type of communication.