Improving Access to Medical Care for Patients in Need of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Using Systems Engineering and Optimization Models
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Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a set of tools and strategies used to support or replace speech or writing for individuals with communication impairments. Several barriers currently exist preventing the access of AAC tools for patients in need which include: (1) AAC assessment is a complex process that involves many professionals to effectively serve patients with complex communication need; (2) There is a substantial gap between the need for and the provision of assistive technology assessment available; and (3) Selection of an unsuitable AAC device can result in abandonment of the device which can lead to loss in revenue, time and effort. This thesis addresses two specific aims as a first step towards achieving the goal of improving access to AAC devices. The first aim looks at developing tools that can help in recommending the best-suited devices to consider for a patient. The optimization model and algorithm developed in this thesis administer the decision-making process by matching the conforming attributes of the patient’s diagnostic profile with the devices’ attributes to select the devices with the highest fitting score to be recommended to the patient. Several factors contribute to the overall device satisfaction score; the factors include ‘Patient condition’, ‘Number of devices available’, ‘Assessment weight distribution’ and ‘Minimum level of assessment satisfaction’. The second thesis aim is to derive a healthcare mobile facility concept for patients needing AAC using the systems engineering life cycle model. The high-level conceptual design of the system was carried out in three phases of needs analysis, concept exploration and concept definition. The design of an AAC mobile assessment vehicle can have a global impact and can improve medical service delivery in different parts of the world.