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Vinfen Launches a Smartphone App for Young Adults with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges

This week Vinfen is excited to roll out a new smartphone application aimed at supporting young adults with emotional and behavioral challenges. Thanks to the Cummings Foundation, we have been able to work with a local company, Wellframe, to develop and test a health and wellness app that provides personalized, daily supports and clinical resources to educate and engage 20 young adults receiving Vinfen services.

What makes this app different from the thousands of health apps available for the smartphone? The funding from the Cummings Foundation has enabled us to develop an app designed to extend the specific services provided by Vinfen using language and concepts shaped by young adults themselves. The app is not designed to stand alone or replace the services provided by staff but is designed to leverage those services. And, it has a built-in data base, which as it grows, will allow us to develop real “decision support,” which can better guide staff and the young people using it.

Through the grant and the generous support of Sprint, we are providing the app, a smartphone, and a data plan to 20 young adults in the Peabody/Lowell area of Massachusetts. The app has three main elements. The first is a daily schedule, through which the young adult is asked to complete 5-7 daily tasks. These tasks include responding to medication reminders, reviewing health related articles and videos, responding to messages and reminders from staff and answering brief questions on their current emotional and mental status. The second element is a personalized ‘tool box’ that contains the young adults’ goals, their strengths, their most effective coping strategies, and problem solving techniques. These tools are readily accessible to the young adult and reinforce the coaching done by staff around self awareness, self regulation, and self management. The third section of the app, the content library, provides articles, videos, and audio links to resources on a variety of key topics such as nutrition, safe sex, healthy habits, and personal safety. On the back end of the app, Vinfen staff are able to monitor adherence to the app, utilization of the daily schedule, initiate and receive communications, and assess the most frequently accessed content.

Developing the program has been a collaborative process between Wellframe and Vinfen, with Vinfen developing much of the content, pulling from both publicly available sources and existing Vinfen clinical protocols. We solicited input from clinical and program staff and most importantly from the young adults in our program who have been able to give input on the content they would like to see in the app. In fact all the videos in the content library feature staff members or some of the young adults in the program. The videos are creative and practical. In one video the staff member is at a McDonalds comparing the nutritional value of the food choices. In another video, one of the young adults demonstrates a relaxation technique she finds most effective

We view this rollout as version 1.0 of our app and we expect to make modifications and improvements as we move forward, soliciting more feedback from the young adult users. We’ll also track lots of data, including amounts, patterns and frequency of use, most frequently accessed content topics and other health outcomes currently tracked by Vinfen. If this works as well as we hope it will, we plan to continue refining it and expand its availability to other young adults served by Vinfen and other providers.

If you would like more information on this project or any of our other innovative initiatives please contact Sophie Jones, Director of Strategic Initiatives at 617-441-1755 or joness@vinfen.org.


2 Responses

  1. Nancy Patriacca
    Nancy Patriacca February 1, 2015 at 9:28 pm |

    Does a person have to be getting VINFEN services in order to use this app?


    1. Erin Tighe
      Erin Tighe February 18, 2015 at 8:52 pm |

      Hi Nancy! At this time, the app is being tested with a small group of young adults who are receiving services at Vinfen. In the future, we are hoping to expand the app to more people. Thanks so much for your interest!


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