Newswise — As many as 19 million U.S. children suffer from at least one chronic medical condition such as ADD/ADHD, asthma, or depression. Building a habit of strict medication adherence from a young age is crucial for preventing lifelong negative health consequences. However, children’s stage of cognitive development, combined with varying degrees of family support, means that a proper regimen is not always followed.

Paul Barclay, a human factors psychology doctoral student at the University of Central Florida and winner of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society’s 2017 "Mobile Health Applications for Consumers" Design Competition, sought to address this issue by designing a prototype smartphone app to help children develop proper medication habits.

Although basic smartphone applications are a popular intervention for improving medication practices among adults, none is geared toward the younger market despite the fact that 75% of children report that they regularly use smartphones to surf the Internet or play games. Barclay’s prototype app adopts an engaging game-based format to help children learn, retain, and recall the health information provided to them. Caregivers set up the medication schedule, and both parties receive reminders and alerts if doses are missed.

Barclay presented his work at the HFES 2017 International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care in March in New Orleans. The design competition showcased application of human factors/ergonomics methods and principles in the concept and design of useful and usable smartphone health apps for consumers or their nonprofessional support network.

Richard Holden, chair of the 2017 competition, noted, “The student design competition is an annual highlight. It combines innovative solutions to important problems with the human factors methods needed to make these solutions effective and usable.”

Barclay’s was one of 15 entries; he and two other finalist teams presented their work at the health-care symposium before the judges. The other finalist teams were Nadejda Doutcheva, Michelle Tong, Thomas Martell, and Ashish Vishwanath V. Shenoy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for “Health Links: A Mobile Application for Low-Socioeconomic Position Patients in Madison, Wisconsin Seeking Information About Community Resources”; and Meng Li and Xi Zheng, University at Buffalo, SUNY, for “Claim Pro: An Integrated Health Insurance Management App for Managing Medical Claims From Multiple Insurance Plans and Finding Healthcare Providers.”

The 2018 student app design competition will open in the fall, with the winner presenting at next year’s symposium, to be held March 26-28, 2018 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place in Boston, Massachusetts.

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The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world’s largest scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals, with more than 4,500 members globally. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. “Human Factors and Ergonomics: People-Friendly Design Through Science and Engineering.”