I’m excited to announce that Proton U is available in the App Store. Proton U is a mobile application to help pediatric cancer patients and their families learn about their upcoming treatment at the the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute (UFHPTI). Patients and healthcare professionals from around the world can now download and use the cross-platform, multilingual, free mobile app to prepare for proton therapy.
Flagler College students partnered with a child life specialist, a physician and a mobile developer to create the storybook app. After reframing the problem at the systems level, a suite of interrelated products was created to support interaction at multiple touchpoints. This included a printed children’s book to read at home, a life-sized cardboard cutout of Jefferson (the app’s main character) to welcome patients when they arrive at the institute, and a plush version of Jefferson to comfort children during treatment.
Proton U was designed for pediatric cancer patients, ranging in age from 18 months old to 18 years old, who will be coming to Jacksonville, Florida from other states and a variety of countries, including Great Britain, Norway, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Nicaragua and Australia. Through ‘playful learning’ and storytelling, Proton U aims to equip young patients with information and coping skills that may reduce anxiety and fear during a stressful time in their lives. The medical team at UFHPTI, the only proton therapy center in the Southeast, has incorporated this app into their active pediatric program, which is one of the largest in the world. The program has dramatically improved the rates of children requiring daily anesthesia for treatment – dropping from 94% to 50% in children age five to seven.
The project, which started during the fall semester of 2014, presented Flagler College students with a complex problem that required knowledge, skills and talents from multiple disciplines—graphic design, communication, theater and Spanish. The approach taken was organic and pragmatic. It allowed design students to apply what they were learning about interaction design in the classroom to meet a real need in the community. During a field trip, the class visited the institute to learn about proton therapy, tour facilities and conduct user research, which involved conversations and activities with pediatric patients and their families. After research, the group worked together to establish the creative direction for the app—one that was engaging but also educational and realistic. Students applied for various roles, including branding, interface design, illustration, content development and user experience design.
The collaborative project gained support across campus as expertise from other disciplines was needed. Students from theater arts auditioned to be the characters’ voices and communication students volunteered to record the audio at the on-campus radio station. After learning that many patients are non-English speaking, Spanish and Norwegian students translated content to make it more accessible for international patients. During the spring semester of 2015, a small team of design students continued working on the project to finalize the UI/UX design of the mobile app, create the other products, and develop a promotional campaign for the app (banner ads, app store description and a microsite). The app was developed and tested in 2016 and launched in early 2017.
Links about Proton U:
Proton U app officially unveiled in Apple’s App Store
Customized app, Proton U, will aid children with cancer treatment
How UF Health, Microsoft and a local college teamed up to make an app for pediatric cancer patients
Proton U app wins second place for statewide award, makes shortlist for another
Flagler College’s Proton U app a finalist for community partnership award