Pharmacy grads tackle language barriers with app

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Some Pacific University pharmacy students have been developing a project named “LitKit.” It is a mobile app that will have multiple uses for patients, pharmacists and healthcare providers alike.

The task of creating this app was spearheaded by new graduate Alex Saucedo, PharmD ‘19 and her team of partners. The group traveled to Seattle, Washington to present at the American Pharmacists Association annual meeting and exposition.

One of the features on LitKit is a handheld translator that will help users understand instructions about their medications. It serves as an alternative to costly translation services that many patients may not be able to afford.

Saucedo noticed patients were confused after picking up their prescriptions, so she began investigating how much they actually understood when they visited a pharmacist. So far the app will include translations for English, Arabic, Spanish, Korean, Russian and Mandarin.

Pacific undergraduate pre-pharmacy student Shelby Uffelman says she feels this project will be incredibly helpful when it becomes something that can be used on the market.

Uffelman worked at a pharmacy over the summer and says in her experience, she found any miscommunication between the patient and the pharmacist or doctor has the potential to be harmful when it comes to the patient’s health.

“Any device that would ensure the patient clearly knows and understands directions for use, side effects and any interactions between prescribed drugs and things they may already be taking would be a huge help, especially to those whose first language may not be English,” Uffelman said.

Saucedo created this app with her own funds — mostly borrowed money while she attended pharmacy school. She worked a lot with fellow graduate Vivan Chau PharmD ‘19 who also hails from a family of immigrants who have seen these language barrier issues through personal experiences. They have seen friends and family struggle to understand a pharmacist’s instructions in their own languages.

Saucedo is the full owner of LitKit and hopes it remains that way. She has already turned down an unsolicited $5,000 investment that would have given her a minority stake in the company.

While some of the other students on the team plan to finish school, Saucedo and Chau graduated from Pacific with their doctor of pharmacy degrees in May 2019 and plan to continue with the project.

*Some information in this article was learned through a Pacific University press release article. That information was expanded upon by Ella Cutter with additional commentary from undergraduate students.


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