Patient Advisor Spotlight: Sarah Han

shanSarah Han is a CERTAIN Patient Advisor currently working on theMobile Post-operative Wound Evaluator (mPOWEr) project. mPOWEr is a post-discharge wound surveillance mobile health (mHealth) app that encourages patients to engage in their wound management, allows surgical providers to monitor their patients post-discharge, and provides a reliable method of patient-provider communication. Sarah met mPOWEr Principal Investigator Dr. Heather Evans when she was volunteering in the Emergency Room at Harborview Medical Center. Sarah is a recent University of Washington graduate who is interested in pursuing a career as a physician, so she was initially interested in opportunities to volunteer on a research project to gain research experience. However, after talking with Dr. Evans about her ongoing research, Sarah became interested in offering a patient perspective to mPOWEr, due to her previous experience with a surgical site infection after her own surgery two years ago. Sarah began collaborating with the mPOWEr team in the Spring of 2013 and has since been involved with design of the mPOWEr application and writing additional funding applications.

When she first began working with the mPOWEr team, Sarah says that she did not immediately recognize the importance of what she had to offer to the team of highly trained and experienced researchers. But, she says, she quickly learned, “my value is my patient experience! My mere presence focuses the team with a more patient-centered approach and helps to design a tool that patients will actually use. As an advisor, I provide the patient voice and ensure that the issues most important to patients are continually represented.”

Sarah believes that patient involvement in research is extremely important. She says, “after getting involved as a Patient Advisor on mPOWEr, it occurred to me that as a patient, our stake in research isn’t in the professional capacity, but it affects us in a very personal way. Patients intimately feel the consequences of disease and illness, and research influences treatment. We can help address gaps in the healthcare system and inform the most useful interventions, yet we are a vastly underutilized resource. I truly believe that patients should not only be on the receiving end of healthcare, but also be contributors to medical research, policy-making, and practice.”

Sarah plans to use her experience with mPOWEr to continue to champion patient involvement in research as well as their own healthcare management. In the fall of 2014, Sarah will attend Stanford MedicineX, a conference that explores how emerging technologies will advance the practice of medicine, improve health, and empower patients to be active participants in their own care. She received an ePatient Scholarship to attend MedicineX, which will afford her the opportunity to connect with other patients partnering with researchers on healthcare technology projects as well as to present her work as a Patient Advisor so that others can learn from her experiences.

Author: CERTAIN Patient Advisory Network

The CERTAIN Patient Advisory Network seeks to improve research by providing a way for patients to work in collaboration with researchers throughout the research process — from the identification of research questions to the communication of the results.

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