heal together: HackDuke 2020 Health Track

Good health, both physical and mental, is something many of us take for granted until we lose it; many people struggle with disabling diseases on a daily basis. Especially with COVID-19 limiting interpersonal interactions, fighting a disease may seem like a solitary endeavor, and without a proper support network, feelings of isolation and hopelessness can defeat a person. This pandemic disproportionately limits the elderly population which, in general, experiences a shrinking social circle, loss of a support network, solitary living, and greater rates of depression. One study showed patients with cancer and depression experience more physical symptoms, have poorer quality of life, and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts or a desire for hastened death than are cancer patients who are not depressed. This is all exacerbated by the stresses of the pandemic and an inability to form new connections, especially with people who are dealing with the same problems. We wanted to create a platform that allows people with diagnoses to connect with one another, record their experiences, and provide one another solace in reaffirming that they are not alone and will not be forgotten.

For our HackDuke 2020 hackathon project, we first went through the ideation process as a team and then branched into two teams: a front end and a back end. The front end team focused on UI/UX. As beginners, we learned how to use Adobe XD to first create mockups of the pages and then learned basic CSS and html to design the pages. Some of the issues faced by the UI/UX team was learning and refreshing HTML/CSS knowledge as well as converting the design for a webpage from paper into code. Webpages were first drafted in Adobe XD and then coded up in HTML and CSS. Oftentimes, we struggled to translate the design into code as components would break and everything would just look awful. The priority for the front end team was to make sure the design of the website is elderly friendly with big font sizes and simple navigation. The back end team worked on compiling user registration details into a database, adding a password authentication system, and hooking each of the pages together into a functional website. Since we have limited experience in web dev, we attended multiple workshops including Web Dev and SQL and applied it to our project. During this process, there were numerous bugs such as registration failing, pages redirecting to the wrong pages, and issues with the database. We tried using Google Cloud to host our website independently, but we found that there were complications with using our database with Google Cloud. So we ended up keeping our website run as a localhost server so our users can see the design and layout of our current product. By integrating the components and dividing labor we were able to efficiently produce an overview and demo of our service. Overall, we really enjoyed learning new skills through this hackathon and building a cool product that is meaningful to our team.

Moving forward, we will finish developing our website and finalize our existing design. We will then collaborate with mental health specialists and patients to create guided questions that will help patients effectively reflect on their experiences. Furthermore, we want to work with hospitals to promote our platform and perform clinical studies measuring the effectiveness of our platform in hopes that it will inform future innovations in this area. We envision hospitals as a pipeline that will recommend our platform to patients and for them join our supportive community and heal together.

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