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Saving lives by connecting the 'docs'

June 06, 2016
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By Ian Bryce

One in 10 visits to hospitals or clinics are due to people experiencing problems with their medications. While 70 per cent of these situations are preventable, a dearth of communication and reporting among healthcare professionals ensures these problems keep happening.

David Peddie is working to change that.

For the past two years Peddie, a master’s student in the School of Communication, has been working on Action ADE, a computer system application that will promote better reporting, documentation and communication among healthcare providers about adverse drug events

To develop the application Peddie and his team collected on-the-ground observations in hospital emergency departments and community pharmacies, reviewed existing response systems, and conducted focus groups.

This research method was a departure from Peddie’s past experience as an engineering undergrad, when he designed a surgical tool without ever stepping foot inside an operating room.

“Our engineering professors were impressed but the surgeon who had commissioned our project never followed up with us,” he says.

During his engineering undergrad, Peddie gravitated towards science and technology studies. After his degree, however, he wanted to explore how technology is actually used. He applied to the communication master’s program to work with professor Ellen Balka in the Assessment of Technology in Context lab.

For his thesis, Peddie analyzed his work on Action ADE to determine the importance of conducting medical research that incorporates everyday practices and compares that to to current methods that rely on preconceived notions of how medical work is performed.

“Complexities of medical practice are sometimes overlooked by other types of research,” he says. “My thesis explores how we might design drug safety interventions to attend to local and particular situations.”

 Peddie’s efforts have paid off. When he convocates in June he will already have a job— as project coordinator for Action Ade. His next step is to bring together healthcare stakeholders to discuss and implement the program across B.C.   

Peddie partially credits his interdisciplinary background for his success.

“It can be comfortable to remain within your own realm of professional culture and expertise,” he says. “But there’s a great amount of potential to be tapped in earnest engagement across disciplinary boundaries.”