Discovering Hands has developed a training method that enables blind women to work in the primary healthcare sector as Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs). Their ultra-sensitive touch gives them a higher precision in breast cancer diagnosis, enabling them to detect it earlier than the average doctor. Thus, the Medical Tactile Examiners add value not “despite their disability”, but “because of their capabilities”.
Next Economy Award – Category “People” (2016). Sustainable Entrepreneurship Award (2014). Innovationspreis der Financial Times Deutschland (2011). Frank Hoffmann is an Ashoka Fellow (2010).
- 37 blind women are working as MTEs in Germany.
- 22 of them are employed by Discovering Hands and placed in gynaecologist’s practices, hospitals and the programme’s centre in Germany. 15 work for other health service providers.
- A study involving 339 patients showed that the sensitivity for the detection of Birads IV and V tumours by MTEs increases by more than 20% in comparison with physicians.
- A previous qualitative study that screened the treatment of 451 patients by the two different methods shows that MTEs find 28% more alterations in breast tissue that are 50% smaller (5-8mm vs. 10-15mm) in comparison to the findings identified by medical doctors.
- A study estimates that implementing tactile examinations at the national level in Germany could save between 80 and 160 million Euros every year due to reduced medical treatment and follow-up costs and the participation of the MTEs in the labour market.
The programme offers MTEs a nine-months professional training that includes an internship period and subsequent support to enter employment in gynaecologist’s practices, hospitals or Discovering Hands centres. Candidates must take an assessment test as part of the selection process, and are selected for their highly developed tactile senses, empathy and interpersonal skills. Once they are employed, MTEs conduct 30-60 minute breast examinations in the framework of regular screening programmes and on women who have been referred by their doctor, have alterations in the breast tissue, or a family history of breast cancer. Examiners stick a strip of stippled ‘haptic orientation’ tape to the patient’s breasts and torso, which helps them pinpoint areas of the breast that warrant further examination.