Myrtede Alfred, Ph.D.

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Myrtede Alfred is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Toronto. Prior to joining University of Toronto, she served as a research assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina where she spent several years using her expertise as a human factors engineer to improve the delivery of care through both research and practice. She worked on projects in surgical instrument reprocessing, anesthesia medication safety, robotic-assisted surgery, and maternal health and disparities that involved direct observation in different hospital units, ICUs, and the OR. In her role, she also supported clinical operation working closely with the risk and safety team on incident investigations and various quality improvement efforts. She has over 20 peer-reviewed

publications and her worked has been funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. She obtained her PhD in industrial engineering from Clemson University (2017). She also runs a STEAM education nonprofit, called Marie’s Kids, in North Charleston, SC.

Abstract: Designing for Health Equity: Avoiding Our Past Mistakes

While healthcare disparities have been noted for several decades, recent research has highlighted the role of technology in exacerbating these disparities. Embedded race corrections in medical devices and clinical decision support tools have been implicated in contributing to disparate outcomes by creating higher care thresholds for Black and nonwhite patients. Described as requiring patients to be “twice as sick,” these thresholds often delay diagnosis and treatment and limit insurance coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased attention on disparities partly due to the role of devices such as the pulse oximeter and decision support algorithms such as SOFA play in guiding medical decisions, including rationing. Despite good faith efforts to create safe, usable medical technology using human-centered design processes and following applicable FDA guidelines, inequities induced or facilitated by these technologies remain. Given these biases in medical technology, equity should be considered a critical part of the design process as early as possible in the design process. In this talk I am going to present some ideas on how we incorporate equity considerations at the various stages of the design process. These changes can not only support health equity, but also lead to better, safer, and more accessible medical technology.