Approaching its second year on campus, the student organization Redefining Innovation in Medical Engineering has devoted time to a diverse array of projects, from helping rural communities in India to working on health policy solutions for the Metro Detroit area.

RIME is focused on providing medical solutions to patients in lower-income markets, according to Engineering freshman Colin Halow, a member of the group. This year, the group is planning to refocus its efforts locally.

They are currently working with three clinics in the area — the HUDA Clinic, Cass Clinic and Hamtramck Clinic.

Harish Kilaru, RIME co-founder and co-president, said he helped found the organization last year to develop medical devices for rural areas.

Last year, RIME’s target area was in rural India. The group created a device that could diagnose jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin, from outside the skin. According to Kilaru, however, the device had issues with actual implementation.

“We realized it’s very difficult to design a product for a market that you can only visit once or twice a year,” Kilaru said. “It’s hard to understand what they value, and we had a lot of assumptions that we couldn’t validate until we went to the country.”

This experience led the group to switch gears and focus closer to home. Projects in the works for this year include a rewards system to incentivize patients to refer others to clinics by offering discounts at places like the Salvation Army and food pantries.

“We want to see whether the rewards are enough to incentivize people to tell their friends to go to the clinic,” Kilaru said. “We’re trying to increase the number of low-income patients that are utilizing primary care, and that issue stems from the fact low-income patients don’t often know where the clinic is.”

The group is also developing a website for patients and providers that will provide information about which services are offered at individual clinics.

The group’s members include undergraduates as well as graduate students. RIME is funded through Innovate Blue, and also received funds from last year’s Optimize Social Innovation Challenge on campus.

Halow said he thought the organization’s work, especially the shift in focus to more local areas, is important because a lot of smaller health issues are overlooked.

“There are a lot of local problems that we seem to overlook, because everything is pushing toward global and holistic care, so we want to make sure that we actually pay attention to these small problems,” Halow said.

Kilaru said the disparity between health care in rural countries often seems more pressing than domestic issues, even though it’s more difficult to solve.

“Groups on campus are much more likely to have a much larger impact on a culture that they understand well, and serving low-income patients in Detroit is much more similar to what we understand,” Kilaru said. “And although it’s important to look globally, a lot of these problems still exist at home.”

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