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In this post, I will talk about my experience of trying to have my open-source application to streamline Post Traumatic Amnesia(PTA) assessment to be used across public hospitals in Australia.

Background

So before I started working on my first mobile(iOS) app or came up with this architecture to build iOS apps, I was recovering from a rather serious accident from which I had a brain injury. You can read about what happened to me in the about page of my PTA app website. Anyway having a serious head injury means that there is potential for certain risks for which you have to exercise caution. In my case it meant that even after being discharged from the hospital or rehab, I could not go back to work for almost 2-3 months. So I had no choice but to stay at home.

The PTA app

I love writing code and I love building software, so not going to work was something difficult for me to deal with at the start, but then I came up with a solution. I thought “hmm I know how the process of assessing Post Traumatic Amnesia(PTA) is, so why not build something to streamline it and have it use across the public hospitals across Australia”, thus began the process of building this PTA app. So this entire process had both the easy and the hard part.

The easy part: coding the app

So this really was the easy part, I mean I had worked with Django on a project in the past and I knew how to write code. Why am I mentioning something basic? well, when I was writing this app, I was learning basic skills like how to walk, but for some reason I knew how to write code or for that matter how to write a recursive function. Anyway so that I did get something read and while working on this app, I discovered this awesome bootstrap template and the fantastic charting library, morris.js. You can download the app from Github and also look at this website that I built for it.

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The hard part: promote the app

This was the hard part, because I have two degrees and they are both in Computer Science and neither of those two involved any marketing, but I had to start somewhere and take some initiative, regardless of the outcome. So it was a month before I would get back to work and I had already built something, so I thought I have little or noting to loose, so I did not mind firing “several shots in the dark”, if it hits the target, great, if not then, I would try something else. The first thing that I tried was,

Cold emailing? if there is such a thing

Ok, Australia is composed of states and territories and each of them have and a health minister for the state. So I thought if someone were to make a decision on something new being implemented across public hospitals in the state, it would be the health minister. So I found out who the health ministers were for each state and sent them all an emailing letting them know about what my system was and why having been a patient, I had an edge over someone who had little or no idea about this entire process. Most of the responses were negative i.e. they said, “we cannot do it at this stage” or something along those lines. I live in Sydney, NSW and the response I received from the health minister’s office was something like “We cannot implement something like this with the existing systems across public hospitals in NSW, however I you would like to talk more about this, get in touch with Director X of ACI

That was awesome, it was a rejection, but at least I got a lead from it. So I contacted Director X at ACI and that director wasn’t available so I left a message and I was told I would get a callback.

Almost 3 weeks passed and I did not get a callback, so I figured a director for a big organisation is a busy person and hence must have forgotten about it. So it was best that I send another reminder, however this time, I really wanted to get Director X’s attention so instead of calling the office, what I did was, sent an email to the general contact email address of ACI and wrote

“Attention Director X:…”
“Just to remind you that I had left a message for you some time ago….”

Ok, maybe that was not the right approach, but I was desperate at this point to get the word out for what I had built, so this was the last resort. Anyway to my luck, I did get a response from Director X and in the response the good Director was kind enough to apologise for not getting back with me sooner and arranged a meeting with me(for 2 months later), and included another very important person who oversees brain injury rehabilitation in NSW.

Meetings

Before meeting Director X, I had managed to get a few other meetings, but I will keep this post simple and only talk about my meeting with the good director.

Director X from ACI

To me this was a very important meeting and as such, I wanted to be fully prepared for this. So to prepare for this, I did the following

The Occupational therapist at the hospital

I managed to locate the Occupational therapist who conducted my PTA assessment at the hospital and had 2-3 meetings with her and she was very helpful in giving me some feedback,some of which I was able to incorporate it into the system.

Ensuring my PTA system works offline

I have already written about this in my blog post: Open source HTML5 visualisation library to draw charts on the web (morris.js). To summarise it, the PTA system has charting capabilities and initially I was using a charting library that would only work with internet connection, so I changed it to charting library that would work offline.

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Finally meeting with Director X from ACI

I was meeting Director X and one other person who oversees brain injury rehabilitation in NSW, and in short this was a good meeting. They had a good look at what I had built and told me that a some of things that I had done cannot really be applied to PTA assessment scenario. So why did I add those unnecessary features? There were many factors to this, but the main factor was
  • I was just one example of a brain injury patient. There are many different cases of brain injury patients, so I could not generalise based on what I had gone through.
So what I gained from the meeting was that, I cannot build a system like this by myself, I need a medical professional and that too someone who has some expertise in brain injury cases. Anyway the outcome of the meeting with Director X was that they will have a think about this and let me know in a couple of months time. Since they are spending the public money on building something like this, they would need to put this against a bunch of other higher priority things see how feasible it is. Well I did hear back from Director X of ACI in a couple of months and I was told that they will not be going ahead with this system for now as it was a lower priority issue for them. In either case by this time, I had already started working on something that I had full control over i.e. my first mobile (iOS) app.

Conclusion

This entire process of trying to promote my app was an interesting experience, it was great to communicate with the health minister of NSW and the two directors at the ACI, NSW.

As usual, if you find any of my posts useful support us by  buying or even trying one of our products and leave us a review on the app store.

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