As a part of the honors program that I’m in, I am required to complete a final capstone project on a topic of my choosing with a focus on under-served communities. The capstone project doesn’t have to technically be research, since it can also quality improvement or more of an observational study. When I first started brainstorming ideas about what I wanted to do for my capstone, I knew that I wanted to focus on superutilizers, which is a term used to define patients who have multiple emergency room visits and inpatient hospital admissions and often acquire the most healthcare spending without necessarily receiving the best quality care. During my third year clerkships, I had met and formed relationships with patients who had complex medical conditions and required extensive care coordination in order for their needs to be met. Consequently, I was drawn to working with this under-served community and hotspotting was a way for me to learn and make a difference in health care delivery.
For my project, my classmate and I are collaborating on a two-pronged approach and we just got feedback on our initial proposal. We were ecstatic that it wasn’t an outright rejection! For the first phase of the project, we have been working as a part of an interdisciplinary student team where we follow a small cohort of superutilizer patients and work to connect them to resources that will help them in the community. For the second phase of the project, we will be implementing a survey to gain an understanding about hotspotting as a potential medical education tool to improve people’s attitudes towards future careers in primary care.
This project, though, is not without its challenges. Although I have done research in the past, it has been mainly bench or basic science research. I have very little experience with qualitative research. Yet, I’m excited to learn how to make survey questions and how to analyze our data because it’s a way for us to really understand how this education tool can benefit both patients and medical students.