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App Evaluation for Wellness at Vinfen

As one of our core values, Vinfen believes in the power of innovation to transform lives. Recently, Vinfen’s Innovation Team began evaluating health and mental health smartphone applications (apps) with the goal of creating a Vinfen app menu. The app menu will serve as a curated list of smartphone apps that Vinfen can confidently recommend to staff and people receiving services. Vinfen’s menu of apps will cover several categories including anxiety, mood, addiction, physical health, and sleep.

With over 10,000 health or mental health apps in iTunes and Android app stores, it can certainly feel overwhelming for users to determine which ones are safe, confidential, effective, and easy to use. The Vinfen Innovation Team has developed an evaluation tool with over 40 questions to determine which apps to recommend in efforts to make this process easier for the user.

The first step in the evaluation process is to determine if the app is user-friendly or likable. Next steps in this process involve everything from understanding content and evidence behind the content, to privacy and security of user entered information. Vinfen’s app evaluation framework is modeled after the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) App Evaluation Model. APA’s model provides resources professionals can use when having conversations about apps with patients.

Smartphone app evaluation is an extension of the digital literacy work that Vinfen started last summer at its Boston Clubhouse, Webster House. Vinfen operates seven Clubhouses (there are over 400 in the world) that provide services for over 900 people. Clubs offer people a sense of belonging. The activities of each Club are based on the expressed interests, needs, and goals of its membership. Members and staff work side-by side to manage all aspects of the Club’s operation and governance, providing members endless opportunities to contribute in meaningful and significant ways to the success of the Club’s work.

After partnering with Beth Israel Lahey Health, Vinfen held Smartphone Wellness Groups at Webster House where members were invited to learn more about how to use their smartphones and how technology can be a resource for wellness. Vinfen Program Development Manager Jessie Wolfe worked with members in each class to explore the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) eight dimensions of wellness and how people can use smartphones to work on personal goals.

In January, Vinfen expanded the digital literacy work of the Smartphone Wellness Groups to Vinfen’s Lawrence Clubhouse, Point After Club, and is repeating the curriculum at Webster House. “We’re hoping to eventually expand the Smartphone Wellness Groups to all the Clubhouses,” Jessie shared. In addition to the weekly groups, the Innovation Team is offering a technology support hour to assist members with all their smartphone questions. Support includes training on connecting to Wi-Fi, the downloading an app, taking a picture and sharing it, mapping a location and getting directions, setting up an appointment reminder, and checking weather forecasts. Other members who have acquired strong smartphone skills are eager to help their peers as dedicated Peer Technology Navigators.

Vinfen is excited to include Peer Technology Navigators and their expertise with the testing the apps. Once Vinfen’s menu of apps is finalized, it will be available to members and any other person receiving services from Vinfen.

If you would like to learn more about Vinfen’s technology innovation work, contact Kim Shellenberger at shellenbergerk@vinfen.org.