Costa Rica Round 2!

I know I have said this before, but time is TRULY flying by! It has already been a week since I returned from my trip to Costa Rica with Luis and Dr. Richardson. The three of us traveled to Costa Rica to work on two projects: EPIC, our group design project focused on peritoneal dialysis, and VisRefr, a secure messaging app for easy physician-specialist consultations (Luis leads this project). The trip was less than a week long, but jam-packed with meetings with various nurses and clinicians around the country. Overall, the trip was a major success and extremely productive. The information we gathered during our trip has already helped our team tremendously in the past week for our two projects based in Costa Rica.

Our schedule in Costa Rica was hectic, to say the least. Luis and I headed out to San Jose, Costa Rica in the evening on February 8th. We started our day quite early (had to wake up at 5 am) with a visit to Hospital Mexico to discuss VisRefr with the project sponsor, Dr. Vargas. Luis and I reviewed the VisRefr app mock-up the team developed the previous week with Dr. Vargas and got some feedback. After providing her thoughts on the app, Dr. Vargas arranged for Luis and I to meet with a number of nurses and clinicians throughout the morning to receive additional user testing feedback. We got feedback from almost 15 nurses and clinicians, all of different experience levels and age. This feedback will undoubtedly be extremely helpful as Luis continues to develop the VisRefr application.

After our work was done at Hospital Mexico, Luis and I were ready to start our drive to Liberia (~4 hours) to begin work on Project EPIC at the Liberia Hospital. Before we started the drive, we were able to grab a quick lunch and ice cream at Rosti Pollos and Pops with our friend Jorge. It was great to see Jorge again (it’s already been 2 months since he left Rice!), and an added bonus to get food from the two places the GMI crew frequented this past summer in Costa Rica. After a long and tiring drive to Liberia (thanks, Luis!), we rested up at the hotel and planned for our next couple of days.

Dr. Richardson joined Luis and me in Liberia on the 9th, and the three of us shipped out to the Liberia Hospital early in the morning of the 10th to get started on project EPIC. The week before we left for Costa Rica, the entire team developed a list of high priority questions related to patient care and home dialysis training that we hoped to have answered during our trip. When we arrived to the Liberia Hospital (we had previously visited in June), we were able to get an incredible amount of information from observations and personal meetings with nurses and clinicians within a matter of hours. We not only gathered information from the high priority questions, but were also able to get feedback on some of the concepts our team developed, allowing us to pinpoint the top 3 concepts to date.

After a productive morning at the Liberia Hospital, we traveled about 45 minutes south of Liberia to visit the Cais de Cañas (a smaller hospital that services the city of Cañas). We had two objectives at the Cais: 1) meet with Diego, a nurse who collaborates with Dr. Vargas on the VisRefr project, to get his feedback on the app mock-up, and 2) if possible, visit the dialysis clinic at the Cais to gather feedback on our top concepts and compare/contrast their dialysis clinic to the one in Liberia. After a few hours, we were able to accomplish both of those goals, and learned quite a bit about the differences between the capabilities of the dialysis clinics in Liberia and Cañas.

If you are exhausted from reading about our trip up to this point, imagine how we felt! But despite the exhaustion we felt from the long days in the hospitals, the progress we already made in two short days of information gathering was too exciting to slow down!

On my last day in Costa Rica, Dr. Richardson, Luis, and I visited the Liberia Hospital once more to gather additional information about the equipment used for peritoneal dialysis in Costa Rica. Having consulted with a few dialysis clinical experts in Houston over the past few weeks, it was important for us to understand all similarities and differences between dialysis treatment in the US and Costa Rica , including any equipment used during catheter implantation and at-home dialysis administration.

After three short, but quite full, days in Costa Rica, I returned to Houston and jumped right back into doing work on our various projects. The pace of GMI has definitely picked up recently, partly due to our various international travel. Though a bit overwhelming at first, we have hit such a nice stride in our project development work style that it’s not hard to keep up the momentum and continue churning out results!

We have less than 3 months until graduation, but a lot more to do for our projects before then. Be sure to keep checking in every week to see what we are up to! I guarantee we will all have lots to share each week 😀

–Michael Hart

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