Week 0: Introducing An App-Based Approach To Teens’ Mental Wellness Assessment

Mar 27, 2021

My name is Kamie Aran, and I am fascinated by the intersection of health and technology. I am particularly interested in learning how wielding computer science can promote healthcare’s accessibility and possibilities. My passion for computer science began in the sixth grade as I saw the opportunities formed by computer science’s infinite applications through a robotics program. However, this passion truly bloomed when I applied computer science to one of the challenges at the cusp of healthcare which increasingly impacts myself, my peers, and millions of other adolescents internationally: mental wellness. 

I decided to develop a mobile app that empowers teens to assess their mental wellness on their own and at any time. I began developing Gieia by conducting two rounds of user research with teens, parents, pediatricians, and therapists. Based on the findings of this user research, I then created a user flow and wireframes. In order to develop Gieia, I taught myself JavaScript, CSS, and React Native. Gieia’s core consists of algorithms adapted from two validated screening tools which assess mental health and substance use. The algorithm associated with the mental health screening tool informs teens whether they may have depression (and, if so, to what degree) based on their answers to the questions within the tool. The algorithm associated with the substance use screening tool informs teens whether they may have a substance use disorder (and, if so, to what degree) based on their answers to the questions within the tool. Both algorithms also provide teens with recommendations regarding further treatment steps based on their answers within both screening tools. 

The algorithms within Gieia are its core, and the algorithmic assessment of mental wellness may lead to more efficient care as well as more accurate mental wellness assessment. In order to ensure this app’s accuracy, its algorithm must be validated. Therefore, my research seeks to validate 1) that mental wellness may be assessed algorithmically and 2) that it is feasible and acceptable to utilize a mobile app as a means of assessing teens’ mental wellness. 

My on-site advisor is Dr. Areej El-Jawahri, an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Assistant in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and I’ll be working with Dr. El-Jawahri in the context of her affiliation with Massachusetts General Hospital (https://www.massgeneral.org/). Dr. El-Jawahri is an oncologist whose research focuses on enhancing patient-centered decision-making interventions, creating supportive care interventions to improve patient care, and exploring modes of delivering healthcare in order to enhance patients’ quality of life and clinical outcomes. She was a recipient of the Innovation Pilot Grant through the Medicine Innovation Program due to her work creating the Psychological Intervention Application for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This app utilizes gamification to allow patients diagnosed with AML to manage their physical and psychological symptoms through counseling support services and educational tools. 

I look forward to documenting Gieia’s progress on this blog.

Research Proposal

2 Replies to “Week 0: Introducing An App-Based Approach To Teens’ Mental Wellness Assessment”

  1. Jacob H. says:

    The idea that algorithms can be used for medical diagnosis is so interesting – what an exciting and well-thought out project. I imagine that patients’ access to self-diagnosis through this app would be a major enhancement to patient-centered decision making, since patients themselves are provided with information and can take action they deem appropriate. Incredible that you taught yourself JavaScript, CSS, and React Native to develop your app as well, what inspired the name “Gieia”?

    1. Kamie A. says:

      Thank you Jacob! The name Gieia derives from the name of the Greek goddess of health and sanitation, Hygieia.

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