Julia Dickey, MS (‘22) felt inspired during her Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) capstone project to research ways to help those suffering from anxiety. Because helping others is something Julia has always been passionate about, she became a nurse in 1995. After many years of experience, she decided to take time off to raise her children. Julia is planning to re-enter the workforce now that her youngest son has left for college.
The capstone project topic was born out of a passion in technology. “One of my boys is really into technology, so I have gained a lot of technological knowledge raising him,” Julia said. Based on this new perspective, she changed plans to re-enter the workforce using a combination of prior nursing experience with modern technological advances. The capstone project was an excellent way for her to take advantage of her unique skillset and ambitions.
Her research found that there are about six billion smartphones in the world. Further, 85% of people carry their phones with them throughout the day and 27% of those people have symptoms of anxiety. This data shocked Julia, but she believed the smartphone could be used as a tool to help anxiety.
Her objective was to create a mobile phone application that uses touch input data or motion data to passively activate when it detects anxiety by the user. “There are existing apps that work on time intervals and prompt the user to take a deep breath or take a moment to relax at certain times throughout the day, but I wanted to create one that helped exactly when and where the user needed it most,” she said.
While looking into more research studies, she found that many people don’t even realize they’re anxious. However, the touch data, motion sensors and hardware of a mobile phone can detect those feelings, thus alerting people early before they suffer from a panic attack. “The app would connect a user to their healthcare provider, hotline or intervention group. It could also just be preprogrammed with calming messages,” she said.
Although Julia’s capstone project was just an idea, she hopes that one day the app will be created. “I would love to be part of the development of something like this. I think this app would be a really positive way to help people since many people struggle with anxiety.”