Concussions are a hot topic in today’s world. Many times the discussions center around athletes returning to the field before making a full recovery. Yet, many individuals suffer concussions each year. Concussions occur as a result of car accidents, recreational activity, slip-and-falls and other incidents.
Dr. Karen Schieman, assistant professor in the Bronson School of Nursing, and Dr. Alan Rea, professor of business information systems, have teamed up to develop a mobile application that will help patients manage their symptoms post-injury and track their progress during their recovery period. Recently awarded a grant from the Society of Trauma Nurses to fund the next stage of the app’s development, the professors are engaging students in the process of building the application.
Knowing that other applications have been successful for symptom management in longer duration diseases, Schieman began thinking of a mobile application as a way to provide ongoing education to patients. Though concussion symptoms typically abate in less than three months, those three months are critical in patients’ recovery.
She reached out to Rea and told him about her idea. The two came up with a game plan to work together, enlisting students in both IT and nursing to work on the project. Multiple student developers have worked on the project, with Rea recruiting students from his mobile development classes.
“Students have developed multiple iterations of the project,” says Rea. “We use an agile approach called extreme programming, where segments of the mobile application are developed and tested in short development cycles and evaluated both from technical and usability standpoints. This requires constant interaction between the developers and health care professionals as we work to make sure each component will address particular needs, but it also allows us to revise the app and adopt additional requirements more readily.”
Rea admits that the hardest part of this process for his students is the cultural shift that needs to occur so they can avoid feeling like they are releasing an “unfinished” product, as they work through the development stages.
Computer information systems student Austin Lemacks, who has been working on the development of the app, is getting a lot out of the experience. “Extreme programming is a model I’ve heard quite a bit about in class, but being able to experience it firsthand has given me a much better understanding of how it works. In my opinion, it is a great way to develop a project. The client benefits tremendously from being able to weigh in on the current state of the project.”
The app will allow patients to rate their symptoms daily, which they can share with their health care provider if they wish. With the app, patients can graphically chart their symptoms to view them getting better slowly over time, and they will also be able to see what strategies have the greatest effect on their symptoms.