University of Canterbury students Nat Young (Master of Health Sciences) and Amber Jones (Bachelor of Teaching and Learning) have developed Prism, a database they hope will improve healthcare and accessibility for LGBTQIA+ clients.
About 170,000 New Zealanders aged over 18 identify as being part of the rainbow community.
While the project is still in its early stages, the pair hope to launch it in July with a University of Canterbury-based trial. They are keen to highlight their plans during Christchurch Pride Week which begins today.
Young, who is also studying towards a Bachelor of Nursing through Ara, says many gay, non-binary, bisexual and transgender people encounter discrimination in the health sector.
“I’ve always been passionate about health and I’ve used the health system a lot since I was small. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised the needs of rainbow people aren’t being met. I know a lot of people who’ve had bad experiences and are now too scared to access care. Or they don’t want to spend more money on appointments with GPs who aren’t equipped to help them,” she said.
“We really want to make sure they feel comfortable going to the doctor early so they don’t end up having adverse health outcomes later on.”
When the database is up and running, users will be able to access information about vetted healthcare providers for free.
They can also provide anonymous feedback on their experiences with the healthcare provider after an appointment.
“Our approach is to concentrate on positives rather than highlighting negatives,” Jones says.
“We want to feature recommendations about doctors who have done a great job and shown empathy or been willing to upskill and find out things – even if that’s just how to use the right pronouns – so they can provide the best care.
“A lot of doctors have been working for years and non-binary and the LGBTQIA+ community wasn’t really a thing when they were going through their training. Unless they have that empathy and understanding they won’t seek out that knowledge and update their skills,” she says.
Jones and Young say their ultimate goal with Prism is to also offer short education courses for GPs and other healthcare professionals so they can improve their treatment of rainbow clients and receive “a kind of accreditation”.
The pair took part in this year’s University of Canterbury Centre for Entrepreneurship’s Summer Startup Programme which offers advice, guidance and workshops to help students fast-track their business ventures.
“We now have a board of advisers and a potential private investor who wants to help us develop a minimum viable product.”
“We’re really looking forward to what we can achieve through developing Prism this year. We want to help as many people as possible and we can see there’s an urgent unmet need,” Jones said.