Achieving Mental and Emotional Wellness With Digital Apps

 

GenUI

GenUI is a digital product and tech commercialization firm. We build innovative solutions that accelerate technology roadmaps and deliver real impact for clients and their customers.

Updated Apr 1, 2021

At this point, nobody needs an itemized listing of the global pandemic fallout. We’re all living through its wreckage. Even in a new year with the promise of vaccine distribution, we need continued mental, physical, and emotional support. At GenUI, we dedicate ourselves to not only identifying the challenges people face in these areas but to creating innovative solutions that optimize the intersection of software and self-care -- and ultimately save lives.

Choose Wisely

With 20,000 mental health apps available on the Android and Apple stores, the fatigue of finding the right wellness tool can make an evening scrolling through Netflix seem featherweight by comparison. But this abundance of options is a good sign: it means technologists, entrepreneurs, and those in healthcare and wellness are imaginatively driving digital initiatives that use technology to help others.

This means the opportunity for collaboration is growing exponentially. Now, more than ever, we see researchers, scientists, and doctors validating and testing new methodologies for evidence-based treatment. And designers and software engineers creating the kind of UX that successfully draws users to return to an app after those first few weeks of novelty wears off. 

Thankfully, there's no need for exclusivity or competition at this new frontier. And with research continuing to "highlight the potential of apps to serve as a cost‐effective, easily accessible, and low-intensity intervention for those who cannot receive standard psychological treatment," we see a tremendous possibility for continued, innovative solutions.

Make an App a Member of Your Wellness Team

In our under-slept, over-caffeinated lives of booked schedules, it’s tempting to look for one solution to rule them all when it comes to physical, emotional, and mental health. But a wellness strategy provides the best results when multiple tools work in tandem. Therapy, exercise, meditation, and healthcare-centered tech platforms create a holistic approach that includes both human and digital touchpoints. 

Yet, how do we rally these tools during COVID-19 when many of our past methods for self-care remain limited? 

It helps to choose a proven tool, like a wellness app, with an evidence base supporting its efficacy claims. Are these platforms using research-supported frameworks like cognitive behavioral therapy? 

As John Torous, director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's digital psychiatry division, told the Washington Post, "Having a game plan … is going to really help you make a better decision, a more informed decision and just a faster decision" in the app marketplace.

3 Digital Tools for Mental Health

At GenUI, we are dedicated to blending our polymathic teammates with inventive health, wellness, and life science partners to explore and produce technology that improves human lives. We genuinely believe the future will be built together. 

Three of the digital product collaborations we are particularly proud of help educate, connect, and soothe people needing aid in three distinct areas:

  • Teenagers fighting cancer, diabetes, and other serious illnesses
  • People of all ages struggling with PTSD and anxiety
  • Anyone in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) recovery

Learn more about each project below. 

Seattle Children’s Hospital: PRISM

PRISM stands for Promoting Resilience in Stress Management. GenUI joined forces with Drs. Abby Rosenberg and Joyce Yi-Frazier at Seattle Children's Hospital to build a native Android and iOS app that promotes mindfulness and stress management for teens and young adults fighting serious illnesses.

Supportive tools for this demographic are crucial because research shows that “people diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 12 and 25 are also at higher risk for poor psychosocial outcomes, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, both during and after cancer treatment.”

As Dr. Rosenberg says, "part of how people learn to be resilient is by overcoming adversities. Teens haven't had the chance to develop these skills in ways that help them navigate something as big as cancer." After an exhaustive review of literature on resilience and how teens with cancer and type 1 diabetes cope with stress, Drs. Rosenberg and Yi-Frazier created the concept for PRISM.

Needing a digital product partner who could make their vision a reality, GenUI stood out to the PRISM team as not only demonstrating the required software architecture expertise but also the passion for an effort to support teens with cancer, which was very personal. Co-Founder and President Jason Greer is a survivor of adolescent cancer and has directed a pediatric cancer retreat in Seattle for over a decade. In 2019, he launched a cancer retreat for pediatric patients and their families in El Salvador. Greer says this program was designed as “a place where families battling cancer can build relationships with others like them and gives room for them to heal.” He credits the mental health support of person-to-person connection with helping these families in their healing process.

For PRISM, the team adopted a similar approach and delivered an app that provides resilience strategies through audio recordings, a journaling and goal-setting feature, and a tool for dealing with negative self-talk that can be shared with peers. Features were carefully selected and scientifically-supported. Per Dr. Rosenberg, "Health is determined not only by biomedical processes but also by emotions, behaviors and social relationships." Currently, the app and PRISM project continue to grow and reach more teens and their families.

TouchPoint

Science has shown that vibrations or touch help reduce stress by stimulating the body's autonomic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze) to produce a calmer state - aiding in the battles against stress, anxiety, and PTSD. Fueled by this research, the team at The TouchPoint Solution had the idea to create a system of digital solutions, including non-invasive wearable tech tied to a mobile app. 

Launched in 2016, their wearables, called “buzzies,” are based on the neuroscience behind Bilateral Alternating Stimulation–Tactile (BLAST) research.

A user typically wears TouchPoints in tandem on each wrist, but with their watch style of design, the strap is removable and the buzzies can also be placed in socks, tank top straps, pockets, or anywhere with safe skin contact and symmetric placement on the body. Haptic micro-vibrations, or "BLAST technology," alternate pulses, starting on the body's right side and then adding vibrations to the left. 

GenUI andThe TouchPoint Solution collaborated to create Android and iOS apps that complement their wearables. The app gives personalized tips for stress relief and works in tandem with TouchPoints wearables. Aided by an advisory board of clinical psychologists and doctors and led by The TouchPoint Solution founder and CEO Vicki Mayo, the company is poised to respond to the stressors and anxiety caused by the pandemic and ongoing trauma treatment required as we move beyond it. 

Mayo, who also serves her community in Phoenix as a child welfare advocate, says her company approaches its products and users through a "broad spectrum of health from mental to physical. We are continuing to create resources for our users through our app, content, and other resources to enhance not only our product, but our overall user experience [so it can] help individuals better manage their stress and their stress response with a variety of tools to get a more personalized look at holistically increasing their health and wellness."  

WEconnect Health

When Daniela Luzi Tudor woke up on the floor of a jail cell in 2014, she knew her life depended on getting sober. Yet, she didn't know quite how to get there. After entering a holistic rehab program, her path to sobriety inspired the idea for WEconnect Health, a social purpose corporation focused on supporting long-term recovery from substance use disorder (SUD).

A former GenUI team member, Tudor called on her erstwhile crew to collaborate on a beta Android app. Working closely together, they prioritized app features that would aid an overall recovery plan by promoting holistic principles through complementary technology (rather than despite it). The app keeps a quantified track of personal progress, including communication with support groups, an activity dashboard, geo-tracking, and an SOS button for immediate support from a counselor or sponsor -- that much-needed human touch. 

Several years and over $11M in funding later, WEconnect Health continues to save lives, provide accurate outcomes data, and support healthcare ecosystems, communities, and families. The company also responded in 2020 to help people forced to stay home due to COVID-19 with free, daily online substance abuse support. 

We’re Only Getting Started

We know our complex and ever-growing needs for self-care and emotional healing started well before the pandemic, and will continue well after it's gone. Therefore we continue to seek out collaborations and seize opportunities to strengthen and improve the new frontier of people-first digital health and wellness apps. Our quest is simple: create solutions that offer vital support to slaying the mental and emotional dragons that stand in anyone’s way of living their fullest life. We’re here for you.