Agile requirements engineering and software planning for a digital health platform to engage the effects of isolation caused by social distancing: A Case study and feasibility study protocol
MEINERT E., Milne-Ives M., Surodina S., LAM C.
Background Social distancing measures have been put in place to reduce social interaction to slow transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). For older people, self-isolation presents particular challenges for mental health and social relationships. As time progresses, continued social distancing could have a compounding impact on these concerns. Objective This project aims to provide a tool for older people, their families, and peers to improve their wellbeing and health during and after regulated social distancing. Firstly, we will evaluate the tool’s feasibility, acceptability, and usability to encourage positive nutrition, enhance physical activity, and enable virtual interaction during social-distancing. Secondly, we will be implementing the app to provide an online community to assist families and peer groups in maintaining contact with older people using goal setting. Anonymised data from the app will be aggregated with other real-world data sources to develop a machine-learning algorithm to improve COVID-19 patient identification and track for real-time use by health systems. Methods Development of this project is occurring at the time of publication, and therefore a case study design was selected to provide a systematic means of capturing software engineering in progress. To mitigate potential issues of non-adoption of the proposed intervention, the system was designed using the non-adoption, abandonment, scale-up, spread and sustainability (NASSS) framework. The application development framework utilised is based on Agile methods. The evaluation of the solution’s acceptability and usability shall be conducted as a feasibility study to analyse factors impacting the solution’s use, adoption and uptake. Results Making use of a pre-existing software framework for health behaviour change, a proof of concept was developed, and multi-stage application development and deployment for the solution created. Grant submissions to fund the project and study execution have been sought at the time of publication, and pre-discovery iteration of the solution has begun. Ethical approval for a feasibility study design is being sought. Conclusions This case study lays the foundations for future app development to combat mental and societal issues arising from social distancing measures. The app will be tested and evaluated in future studies to allow continuous improvement of the app. This novel contribution will provide an evidence-based exemplar for future app development in the space of social isolation and loneliness.