Send Up the Count at Hacking Health

I’ll be pitching an idea and bringing a team to the Hacking Health Design Challenge. I want to make a “Send Up the Count” app for veterans (and first responders) with PTSD/OSI, and for the people who care about them.

Last year, I participated in a Hacking Health Sick Kids 2014. Our team created an app to help kids have fewer meltdowns. We won the Pivot Award for Best Design. I learned how to program in iOS and got to work with some great people.

This year, the same organization is holding another health hackathon, but with a twist. For the Hacking Health Design Challenge, there is going to be eight weeks between the initial pitch and the final demo. You can register as a team. And there will be prize money.

My idea is to make a “Send Up the Count” app for veterans (and first responders) with PTSD/OSI to give and receive peer social support.

Send Up the Count is a movement, which was started by Jordan Levine and Brian Harding on November 29, 2013 with a post on milnet. They asked veterans to look out for each other in the upcoming difficult holiday season. The name comes from an existing military practice. Levine wrote:

“Sending up the count” is something that’s done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone’s still there.  The leader whispers, “send up the count” to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line.  That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying “one”.  The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says “two”.  This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader’s shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.

We do this especially at night, when we can’t see to the end of the line, or even see the next person.  We do this to make sure all is well.  We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever’s supposed to be there, front and back, is there.  We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team.  And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group.

Their campaign spread from military channels to Twitter and  Facebook group. When I heard of it, I thought it was a great idea. I also thought that they could use an app that worked on top of existing social media channels to help keep tabs on people. Currently, there are no ready mechanisms in Twitter or Facebook to whisper back “send up the count” or send forward a number.

So, that’s the idea, but there’s a lot of work that’s needed to get things right, such as privacy, activity views, and send up the count requests. Here are a few design issues and ideas that I’ve had.

  • It needs to be integrated with the user’s social media accounts.
  • There needs to be a invitation/request system to form support circles.
  • Do support circles need to have a leader?
  • Reminders can be sent to check up on someone based on activity data.
  • It probably needs a server to store activity data.
  • The support circle somehow needs to have a front and a back, so that send up the count requests can be sent.
  • It should be possible to do data mining and sentiment analysis on the tweets and posts, so we can detect whether someone needs to be checked on.
  • We could use location information to provide suggestions for help.
  • We must caution users that the app is not a substitute for medical help.

If this app works for veterans, it could conceivably be used by other peer support groups.

I’m currently putting together a team. Here are the kinds of participants that I’m looking for.

  • Front End Programmer -we will probably be using Unity
  • Back End Programmer -somebody who can put up a server and write some machine learning programs
  • UX Designer -interview subject matter experts and put together prototypes
  • Graphic Designer -create prototypes and images for UI elements
  • Veterans (with and without PTSD/OSI)
  • Someone who has led a support group for PTSD/OSI
  • Physicians/psychologists who treat PTSD/OSI

If you’re interested, but haven’t done any of these things that’s OK. We will all be learning as we go. The programmers and designers will probably be meeting weekly for the eight weeks of the design challenge. The subject matter experts will be very welcome at the weekly meetings, but they can also work with the designers directly.

Would you like to join me on this adventure? We’ll make something cool and have a great time. It’s going to be awesome.

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