GovLaunch: VA listens to audience in development of PTSD Coach app

Knowing your audience and brand is important, and when you're creating a mobile application targeted toward an audience with specific needs, you need to listen. That's exactly what the VA did in the planning stages of its Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Coach application.

Lead Developer Dr. Julia Hoffman, along with other clinicians for the VA Department's National Center for PTSD and the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology went straight to the source in Palo Alto, Calif., to ask PTSD patients what they wanted in an app.

The vets' top priority, they told Hoffman, was finding something to help them relax and focus when they were in the grip of a PTSD attack, suffering from related symptoms such as anger or sleeplessness or generally stressed out.

The vets wanted an app to guide them through many of the same techniques they followed with therapists, such as rating their stress level, practicing deep breathing and progressively relaxing their muscles, she said.

I think it's incredibly useful to listen to your audience, and tailor your product around their user behaviors and preferences. And with a condition such as PTSD, you could not have developed a coaching app without consultation from actual patients.

The government has moved aggressively into the mobile app market, launching more than 80 in the past 18 months with almost every agency providing at least one app. PTSD Coach, which has been downloaded more than 27,000 times and from 53 countries, often is held up by leaders of the General Services Administration's Mobile Government advisory board and others as a model of a successful app that is task-oriented and understands its audience.

Does your agency currently use apps? Is your agency conducting a conversation with its audience? How would apps work in your agency?

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