Employee’s Hackathon Win Turns Into New Functionality to Support Transgender Care

The first half of 2020 was quite tumultuous. Far from over — though we didn’t know it at the time — the COVID-19 pandemic had already caused tremendous economic uncertainty and made the health disparities in our country more glaring than ever before. Castlighters knew there was more we could be doing as a company to help vulnerable populations get the care they need.

So when we held our 23rd Hackathon in July, we decided the theme should be “Bridging Inequity Gaps in Healthcare.” Each Hackathon, the company votes on three winners. This time, one of the winning projects was called “Gender Transition-Related Care Inclusion.” Led by Jack Steele, a customer support specialist, this initiative aimed to make the Castlight app more accessible for transgender members who were looking for gender transition-related care.

“I had started working at Castlight about a week before the Hackathon was announced and was looking at what Castlight’s solutions had to offer,” says Steele. “While the app allows people to search for a lot of different kinds of care, as a trans person I found that I couldn’t really use it for trans-related care.” In fact, when Steele input keywords relevant to this type of care, each search produced no results.

Though he was a new Castlighter, Steele already felt like leadership wanted to hear from a diverse group of people, and he was excited to throw his perspective into the mix. At the time, he had no idea his Hackathon project would end up becoming a reality less than a year later. In May 2021, Castlight built the following four trans-related procedure types into the platform:

  • Feminizing breast augmentation (mammoplasty) 
  • Masculinizing top surgery (bilateral mastectomy) 
  • Feminizing bottom surgery 
  • Masculinizing bottom surgery

When figuring out how to offer care for people interested in gender-affirming procedures, the very first step was to make it possible for these individuals to find information about the care they sought — rather than getting a blank page or being redirected to a primary care physician.

After identifying the four most common gender transition-related procedures, the Analytics team investigated all relevant claim codes and mapped them to the procedures, with the ultimate goal of identifying providers who do these surgeries. The team also conducted research to account for popular keywords individuals may use to search for these procedures based on both clinical terminology and language used within the trans community. For example, someone may type in “orchie” when looking for providers who will do a feminizing bottom surgery.

In addition, the Clinical team and an LGBTQI consultant worked together to ensure the small care descriptions provided with each search result equip members with the information they need to navigate the healthcare system and are culturally sensitive. It was crucial that the procedure descriptions align with how this specific community thinks about their own health.

All of these efforts align with Castlight’s commitment to provide as high a degree of personalization as possible. Our large, diverse data set and deep data experience enable us to help all employees navigate to the right care at the right time. Members can also speak directly with a Castlight Care Guide, a clinical specialist who can provide further care navigation guidance, something particularly valuable for personal and complex procedures like these.

When Steele found out the Product and Clinical teams had decided to take this project beyond Hackathon, he was blown away. “It was unbelievable,” he says. “I went straight to my younger brother and told him ‘You’ve got to come work for this company. They listen, and they care.’” And we’re very happy to report that Jack’s brother is officially a Castlighter now, too.

“Innovation is core to what we do at Castlight, and Hackathons are a fountain of creativity for us,” shares Robert Stewart, Castlight’s CTO and Chief Architect. “While the Engineering team hosts these events, we strongly encourage and love to see participation from Castlighters from across the company. We look for every opportunity to surface and implement the best ideas, no matter what team the ‘hacker’ may be on.”

While we are excited we have added these procedures to our database, this is just the beginning of an ongoing journey to continue supporting all people in their care journey, no matter what that journey may be.