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Designing a Smartphone Application

Last December, I stuffed my suitcase with sunscreen, kurtis, my handy dandy notebook, and rupees I’d found lying around the house. As soon as winter break began, my 11 classmates and I boarded a plane to begin our product design class field trip. After almost 24 hours of travel, we reached our destination: Ahmedabad, India!
There, we met IIT Gandhinagar students we’d be collaborating with and were soon on our way to visit local hospitals, construction sites, farms, villages, and even deserts (see Little Rann of Kutch). The purpose of this trip was to identify specific problems that people in developing nations face. Every day, after our field visits, all 30 of us gathered into our classroom to brainstorm solutions for the problems we’d drafted. After 7 days, we had come up with 250 different solutions (some more realistic than others). We narrowed the 250 solutions down to 50, and then voted on which 10 or so projects the class should focus on. After ranking our individual preferences, we were divided into teams of 4-5 for each project (2 Indian students, 2-3 American students).

Projects this year included:

  • Diabetes monitoring kit
  • Ergonomic chair for children with cerebral palsy
  • Mechanical spoon for patients with Parkinson’s
  • Vertical material transport method for construction workers
    The class spans two terms (winter and spring): the first term focuses on choosing a specific solution and creating the first prototype, while the second term focuses on marketing and final prototypes.

My group, named MedConnectSolutions, aims to create a smartphone app that will help patients with their physical therapy after they’ve left the hospital. For one reason or another (lack of education, forgetfulness, laziness), patients do not follow up with their physical therapy and medications when they return home from the hospital. Physicians we interviewed in India stressed that this causes their health to deteriorate even further. Unfortunately, many hospitals in India are very crowded, so doctors don’t have the time to continually check up on their patients after they’ve been discharged.

During our site visits in Ahmedabad, we couldn’t help but notice the patients’ joy when participating in group physical therapy sessions. Even a task as simple as throwing and catching a soccer ball with another patient became an enjoyable, cathartic game. With their peers watching as they did their exercises, patients strived to perform better; the healthy competition helped each member of the group. We decided we wanted to harness this camaraderie and competition to help patients when they return home.

Along with site visits and interviews of patients and doctors, we also conducted market research to figure out what kinds of apps are not available in the Indian market. India’s most popular medical app, HealthKart Plus, helps patients search for locations that sell their prescribed medications. Few physical therapy applications existed, and none of them were too interactive or user-friendly. We concluded that while Indian patients utilize their smartphones to access information about their medications and instructions for treatments, a comprehensive application targeting physical therapies does not yet exist.

After weeks of bouncing from one idea to another, we narrowed down our project: our app tracks physical therapy progress and encourages therapy adherence using game mechanics. What does that mean exactly? Well, patients can input their physical therapy routine into the application. Once inputed, patients use the app to keep a log of how often they perform their exercises. A scoreboard and progress bar allow patients to compete with others from their PT group at the hospital while tracking their personal progress.

Our initial prototype is a series of crafted screens that convey the main purpose and functionalities of the app. You can install the prototype on an Android application or play around with it at: https://www.flinto.com/p/68d958ee.

Our tentative app name is Compete, and our tentative logo is shown below. We wanted to emphasize the P and T in compete, since they stand for physical therapy. We’re still messing around with the logo, especially impossibly flexible letter P.

While the American team now has spring break, the Indian team is still in session, so we hope to continue programming the application over the next two weeks. Our grand reveal is during the last week of April, when our IIT counterparts finish up their semester.

What do you think of our app, design, and idea? Suggestions and critique are always welcome 🙂
We already showed our initial prototype to patients and physicians, who liked the bare bones of the app but wanted many more features (timer, schedule, more game-like aspects). Hopefully, in the next month, we can deliver!

That’s all for now,

Ketaki Panse