Mind Over Matter? At T2 the Two Work Together

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Mind Over Matter? At T2 the Two Work Together

Subject matter experts and developers at National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) work together to create mobile apps for members of the military community. (T2 photo by Bill Wheeler)

At the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) center, psychologists and technology developers work together to create innovative products that help users address psychological health and traumatic brain injury concerns. I asked T2 experts, Dr. Nancy Kao Rhiannon, research psychologist, and Roger Reeder, senior developer for mobile applications, to tell us a little bit about how their collaborative process brings new products to life.

Q: How does the creative process for new products begin? Can it start with either the psychologist or the developer?

Rhiannon: Typically, one of our subject matter experts (SME) shares a concept for a product meant to benefit service members. There’s a lot of interplay between the SME and the developer. While the SME may have the idea and how it can be applied, the developer is the one who actually makes the technology work.

Reeder: I agree. As a developer, I may bring up new technology that could be a relevant solution, but the SME will be the one to look at how we can apply it.

Q: A psychologist deals with behavior and the internal workings of the mind. A technology developer deals with how to manipulate the external world. How do you help each other create a product that benefits from both views?

Rhiannon: First, both our psychologists and developers understand different aspects of human nature and how they interact with the physical world, and they complement each other. One thing I find great about working with Roger is that while I may think of how an idea relates to a person, Roger thinks about how the idea will look in a functional form and how it will look to the user. Roger will often ask me, “How do you want the app to open; what’s on the first page?” And I really don’t know. I have an idea of the overall app but not how some of the specifics will work—I need the developer’s help for that to take shape.

Reeder: Sometimes I create a visual representation of the app so the SME and I have a common concept of how the app will look and work.

Q: Dr. Rhiannon, what do you hope to accomplish with T2 product development?

Rhiannon: My underlying goal for T2 apps is to provide evidence-based psychological health information, management tools and assessments that are both beneficial and easy to use.

Q: And Roger, what is your focus as a developer?

Reeder: While I want to reinforce the clinical goal for the app, I really want users to enjoy using the app so they are motivated to use it regularly. To me, that’s a win for all. For example, with Breathe2Relax it was important to include information that instructs people on how to breathe properly, to give them that education that supports what the app is trying to help them do.

Q: How do you think the new T2 Technology Enhancement Center will complement your role in product development?

Reeder: From the tech side, it will help solidify the scope of a specific project, and the usability and appeal of an application. The user feedback will reinforce our design or alert us to necessary changes.

Rhiannon: We can also leverage the center during the discovery phase to research concepts that would be advantageous to service members, veterans and families.

Thank you, Dr. Rhiannon and Roger for giving us some behind-the-scenes insights into how you develop T2 products.


Posted by: Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications on December 6, 2011

Link to Original:  http://www.dcoe.health.mil/blog/article.aspx?id=1&postid=320

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