Healthcare App for Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries

August 2014
Lindsay Kaye
Lindsay Kaye

MITRE software engineer Lindsay Kaye is committed to developing a mobile healthcare application that helps traumatic brain injury patients accomplish day-to-day activities.

Kaye, who initially came to MITRE as an intern between her junior and senior year in college, joined MITRE in 2011 after she graduated from Olin College in Needham, Mass.

During her internship, she made a prototype of a decision-making tool for the Air Force Special Operations Command. "It was the best internship I'd ever had. I did real software engineering work and had the opportunity to interact directly with my sponsor."

It also gave Kaye the insider's perspective on coming back to the company full-time. "I saw that MITRE has a really good environment for learning new things and working in a variety of areas. I knew I wanted to be somewhere that had interesting and challenging work, and MITRE is a great place for that."

Research Inspired by the Warfighter

Always eager to try new things, Kaye didn't take long to put together a proposal for MITRE's internal research program in addition to her work for Department of Defense sponsors. "I have friends who are physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. They help injured patients every day. And I thought 'I'm an engineer—what can I do?'"

Her idea is an iPad application that helps patients with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) complete everyday tasks. While TBI diagnoses are on the rise in the general population, the number of TBI diagnoses among members of the armed services and veterans has tripled each year in the last decade. "MITRE research supports the warfighter in many ways. Our work supports them before battle and during battle, so I wanted to research new ways to help them after battle."

Now in its second year, her mobile health application—called the TBI Tracker—has four staff members, including Kaye, contributing to the effort. TBI Tracker can help patients accomplish everyday tasks—the colorful interface reminds them what comes next and encourages them along the way. It can also be used for scheduling tasks and providing data to clinicians.

Next Steps

With a working prototype complete, Kaye's goal for the application is to get it into the hands of more users. "I'd really like the TBI Tracker to be transitioned to our sponsors, especially to the VA. I briefed the head of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center at Walter Reed in April, and it was well received. We've briefed other VA and DoD sponsors as well."

"I'd like to see as many people who could be helped by it use it," she says. "Right now, we're doing a small pilot study and getting really good feedback from the users."

Kaye plans to add an information presentation dashboard to the application so there's a robust internal logging system that records what the patient has been clicking on. The dual dashboard would allow the patient and the clinician to easily share information.

"That way a clinician could see that a patient opened something up 50 times but only used a task once. Then the clinician could follow up with the patient and see what's happening. These are the types of features we're trying to co-design with clinicians and patients."

While the app is part of the corporation's internal research program, Kaye worked with MITRE's Technology Transfer Office to have the prototype, now called the BrainKit Task Planner, available as a free download in the Apple App Store. "Getting it in the App Store allows us to share it much more widely."

Opportunity to Keep Learning

Always willing to tackle something new, Kaye is pursuing a master's degree at Babson College. With pre-approval, MITRE offers employees tuition reimbursement for continuing their education. "Tuition reimbursement is an awesome perk. I would encourage anyone looking to go to graduate school to factor that into their job hunting."

The flexibility to take classes when needed makes a difference, too. "MITRE and my management have been incredibly supportive about continuing my education and training."

—by Kay M. Upham

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