Learning isn’t always fun but accepting that you live with a chronic disease can be downright terrifying. Whether we like it or not, we must do our best to become familiar with the ins and outs (no pun intended) of a life where IBD plays a huge role.

A few months ago, I graduated from the Umeå Institute of Design in Sweden, with a master in Advanced Product Design. For my thesis I attempted to translate my own Crohn’s disease experiences into something which could help others. I think I succeeded and would love to share the outcome of my master thesis – Pling – with everyone.

Pling in a nutshell

Pling is an app that is built for kids to use independently; it’s designed to improve the way they learn about their health condition. The digital application is able to bring in information directly from a patient’s electronic health record (EHR) and infuse it into age appropriate health literacy programs. The Pling interface differentiates and engages paediatric patients in a more personalised learning experience, thus furthering their learning and understanding of their disease.

By infusing the user’s experience with their own health information (including: personal details, clinical results, notes during consultations, information regarding surgeries they underwent, abnormalities paediatricians saw during endoscopies, experiences of prescribed treatment, experienced symptoms prior to treatment, etc.) Pling is able to educate young patients not only about IBD, but about their specific disease experience. After set-up and onboarding, new users can begin learning by selecting an option from the main menu: 1. What the …? (Learn about IBD’s existence and symptoms), 2. Just beat it! (Learn about IBD coping strategies), 3. You are not alone (Allowing children to talk to each other anonymously) and 4. Who’s the doc? (Learn the role of everyone on the healthcare team). In my next article I will dive deeper into explaining what will be shown to the child in each educational chapter.

Through developing Pling, I really hoped to create an application that gives children a sense of hope, optimism and trust in a positive disease development. Before the app has been opened, it is easy to imagine that someone has gone through a hard time. It is the paediatric care team’s job to not only prescribe the right treatments, but to also increase a patient’s quality of life. Improving health literacy can provide benefits not only for patients, but also caretakers and caregivers. It is expected that improving health literacy improves a patient’s understanding of his/her condition and long-term complications, self-care knowledge, knowledge of treatment options and likely outcomes, and general comprehension of provided information. Increasing a patient’s knowledge can result in improved doctor-patient communication, involvement in decision making, psychological well-being, self-efficacy, increased use of preventive services and reduced number of visits to a paediatrician or general practitioner. It allows a patient to make conscious health related decisions, improves the indication of symptom severity and increases adherence to treatment.

I have never been so excited about a project, and I am currently pursuing the development of this application. Hopefully, Pling will become the standard for paediatricians and I’ll do my best to make sure everyone who might benefit from this application can contribute to its development. Feel free to reach out to me if you want to know more, chat about the possibilities, etc.


Author’s Note: This will be the first of two articles. The second article will show more visuals of the outcome. Actually, I will be showcasing Pling during the IBD Innovate event (organised by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation) on the 13th of November. If anyone will be there, please let me know so we can meet each other.

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