#ALLin was inspired by Intouch’s passion for helping people and using our tech expertise to solve healthcare challenges. We know that the more we understand the healthcare challenges that patients, caregivers and professionals face, the more successful we will be at finding innovative answers to help address them.
And so, on April 23, the #ALLin journey began at the Kansas Speedway, at the MS Society’s Walk MS. Our custom mobile Airstream studio made the first of what will be many stops at healthcare-related events across the country. Intouch employees and their family members joined us, participating in the walk and meeting people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones.
The mobile Airstream studio allows our #ALLin team to collect stories in a private setting at events where emotions run high. These stories will inform and inspire hackathons we’ll host this summer, where Intouch teams will rapidly create new digital solutions to healthcare problems.
As EVP Wendy Blackburn told the Kansas City Business Journal, “We can build apps and websites all day long, but until we are really out there talking to patients, we won’t be as effective and as close to what’s going on.”
At the Kansas City MS Walk, the team conducted six interviews, speaking with five people with MS and one caregiver.
Lila, a veteran of 18 MS Walks, told us how she had turned 40, gotten divorced and been diagnosed with MS, all within a span of three months. “I was scared to death,” she said frankly, explaining that “people take for granted the automatic functions of the brain, but now I have to think about that.” She spoke about the unpredictability of MS and the fact that many symptoms are invisible to the outside world: “People jump to conclusions about what you can and can’t do.”
Paula Heck, a first-grade teacher, had to learn how to write left-handed when MS made it difficult for her to write on the chalkboard with her right hand. She was diagnosed after a decade of symptoms but then experienced 17 years of remission. She can’t line dance anymore, but her grandchildren love riding on her Hoveround and honking the horn, and her friends have nicknamed her “Princess Heck on Wheels.” She agreed with Lila about the importance of recognizing that “MS is different for everyone, and each case is individual.”
Sally was diagnosed with MS shortly after her sister was, and she was shocked when her neurologist said, “This mustn’t be a big deal to you, since your sister has MS, too.” She thought her life was over. “But I got on medication right away,” she said, “and made diet and lifestyle changes.” Thirteen years later, she’s still working full-time, just earned her master’s degree, and takes hikes with her husband Kris. In a bet with Kris, she even went skydiving after raising a thousand dollars for MS research. “Even positive stress can cause a flare, so she couldn’t walk afterward,” Kris said. “I had to carry her to the car. After three days, she was fine – and wanted to go again – but I told her I just couldn’t handle it!” Kris and Sally spoke eloquently about their relationship and its centrality to their lives and their health.
The stories we learned will go on to inform our work in a variety of ways, and the experiences of the day solidified the importance of the #ALLin effort for everyone who was able to attend.
As Kris said, “You don’t know what’s going to come your way.” We were awed and inspired by the people who came our way and spent time sharing their stories with us, and we’re determined to use what they taught us to help people like them.
Follow our #ALLin journey on Instagram at @Team_ALLin