Innovation is vital as the Military Health System (MHS) continues to strive for better care for service members, retirees and their families. To highlight innovation in care delivery, we are featuring award winners from last year’s Innovation Awards presented at the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States conference. More information, including application guidance, for the second annual Innovation Awards to be held at the beginning of December 2015. Applications are due by Oct. 9, 2015.
Nigel Bush is a research psychologist and program manager for the Research, Outcomes and Investigations program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, a part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. He and his colleagues were recognized at last year’s Innovation Awards hosted by the MHS Innovation Office for their Virtual Hope Box. The mobile app helps to regulate emotions and reduce stress via personalized supportive audio, video, pictures, games, mindfulness exercises, activity planning, inspirational quotes, coping statements and other tools.
What inspired your team to develop the Virtual Hope Box?
Our team was familiar with the concept of a Hope Box, and we worked with clinicians who found it useful, but somewhat limited. Given our expertise with mobile technologies, the advantages of a smartphone tool seemed obvious. We kept hearing from clinicians that patients need a customizable accessory to care.
What do you feel makes the Virtual Hope Box innovative?
While our content has been proven, the variety of effective tools in a comprehensive multimedia suite that’s constantly and privately accessible makes it innovative. Clinicians appreciate that the content can be tailored to the unique needs of each patient or user.
Can you provide us with an update on where the Virtual Hope Box is now?
In addition to a successful pilot that demonstrated Virtual Hope Box as a practical clinical and general use tool for stress management and emotional regulation, we received several hundred testimonials from users and clinicians describing how they used Virtual Hope Box to cope with stress. Also, the app has now been downloaded over 50,000 times by service members and civilian users alike. Next, to build even more use, we are broadening our promotion of this app from one specialist clinic to an entire regional Department of Veterans Affairs behavioral health system.
What has been the impact of Virtual Hope Box on military health and readiness?
Personal cellphone use is extremely high among active and recently retired military personnel. And service members are highly mobile. When a patient is away from the clinic, we recognized that a mobile application could complement the care of a provider. Also, if there is ever a reluctance to seek care due to stigma or inaccessibility, patients can take advantage of the privacy a mobile app provides. Anecdotally, we know Virtual Hope Box is helping support emotional regulation and stress coping amongst service members.
Why do you think it’s so important for the MHS to recognize and reward innovation?
We work hard to develop health tools that we strongly believe will benefit service members and providers. But, it’s also natural for us to wonder at times whether everyone sees the same value we do. The MHS Innovation Awards reinforces our mission and helps legitimize our products.
How do you think the MHS could continue to support innovation?
First, awards such as the Innovation Awards are great. In my opinion, it’s also important to encourage risk taking and leaps of faith. Removing obstacles to imaginative and speculative endeavors to allow for failure alongside success will enable the MHS to keep innovating.
MHS Innovation redefines the pace of service, process and technology innovation aligned with MHS strategic priorities by empowering individuals, sharing best practices and collaborating with strategic partners. Learn more about MHS Innovation.