Innovating to help Veterans with brain injuries, PTSD

VA employee's idea tops #VABrainTrust competition



Late last month, Secretary Bob McDonald crowned Laurine Carson’s idea as the winner of VA’s Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion, a two-day event designed to facilitate innovative ways to help Veterans living with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Carson won for her cognitive, electronic application idea called TECi, which stands for Trusted, Empathic, Calming, and Insightful, that will serve Veterans as a trusted companion by learning, understanding, and interacting with them during rehabilitation and recovery of their injuries.

The inspiration for TECi originated from one of her daughters. Late one evening, Carson heard her daughter speaking to someone in her room. When the concerned mother investigated, she discovered that her daughter was actually interacting with her iPhone via Siri.

“My daughter said that she and all of her friends talk to Siri all the time,” said Carson, who as worked for the Veterans Benefits Administration for 27 years. Her daughter went on about Siri’s features and how the application helped her plan her day.

At the event, Carson reflected back on that evening with her daughter and thought a device similar to Siri with a Veteran-specific, voice-recognizing feature could assist Veterans and their caregivers by helping them organize their schedule, reminding them to take medications, giving them affirmations and providing other cognitive response actions.

“Innovation can come from anywhere and anybody,” said Carson, who is the assistant director of the policy staff in Compensation Service. “The only prerequisite is our willingness to care about the people we serve.”

Carson is developing her idea with the help of Dr. Katherine Veazey Morris, Polytrauma Psychologist at Memphis VA Medical Center; Dr. Nazanin Bahraini, Clinical Research Psychologist and Director of Education, Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center; Holly Crimm, a master’s level social work student at the University of Alabama; Timothy Pavlick, Cognitive Psychologist and Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Public Sector consulting business; and Col. Sidney Hinds, DoD Brain Health Research Program Coordinator and Medical Advisor, Principal Assistant for Research and Technology, Medical Research and Materiel Command.

From here, Carson and her team will continue to develop their idea through research and design.

“We have to develop a prototype and test it,” Carson said. “We will continue to work with VA’s Center for Innovation to ensure that this idea becomes a reality for Veterans and their families.”

 

Author

Mark Ledesma

– Mark P. Ledesma is a public affairs specialist with the Veterans Benefits Administration after having served six years as a senior Veterans Service Representative at the San Diego VA Regional Office. Mark is also a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps.

Comments

  1. Ao2 Malcolm Jerry Moren    

    My doctor recommended for me to go to occupational therapy at the Tomball Va in Texas . I showed up early waited to be called in by doctor. But when she came out she tells me to go set down that she wanted to start treatment on another veteran, who had a latter appointment. Then her treatment for me was nothing after just a few minutes with little to no interview she tells the other Dr who is a physical therapist that I don’t need her treatment. She told he to treat me . I was beyond upset , I had waited for weeks for that appointment, I had questions, I had hopes she could give me answers to why my hands and arms go numb and hurt all the time . But nothing ! I called the hospital administrator to get something done. And that fell flat (his quote to me was that does not sound like her ) she would not do that . So now I’m a lier too. Mr P passed me off to a mr R who said she would call me and apologize and reset a proper evaluation But that was May 6th this is May 14th again nothing. The system is broken. If the administration allows this kind of behavior

  2. Robin Mitchell    

    Anything but actually help the TBI veterans. That would take money better spent on employee bonuses.

    When my husband is dead in a year because I am not able to care for him alone and Robert McDonald refuses to use his power to approve aid and attendance to a 100% service connected disabled veteran all of you , et al helped bury the real issue:

    Why are veterans that qualify under present laws for aid and attendance like my husband John Mitchell being denied while you invent toys on the cheap for McDonald to stand behind? All of you should be ashamed. Ms. Carson, my husband and his problems are not your child playing with SIRI.

  3. Gary Koerner    

    I’ve had both Android and iPhone apps for year. I like the Google Android apps for some of their features, and Apple’s iPhone for it’s consistency of commands and intuitiveness throughout the design of it’s apps. I see three major issues: (1) The VA should let these two consumer tech companies do the app programming, after the VA decides on the functionality of what you want the programs to accomplish. Don’t try to do this in-house.like https://www.myhealth.va.gov. I can simply email a civilian doctor, as opposed to “secure messaging” and the VA’s multiple security levels. (2) Address the resistance that many, especially older veterans have to using technology. I say this because I see a lot of seniors, perhaps most of them, still using basic phones and flip phones;. (3) Address the higher costs associated with Smartphones fees for the cost of smartphones hardware, and usage costs for data and texting.

  4. Barry Cantrell    

    I already have an app its called care zone, alarms to alert me to med time and a list of all my meds, reminders for refill etc…It also keeps copies of my ID,
    insurance and other important cards. It answers questions about medical issues and so forth. It is a great app!

  5. Leon Rathburn    

    Excellent idea! I think it would help me in remembering to take my medication as well as other reminders, such as appts, and a quick to access voice recorder for complicated conversations. The only thing I would rather see…is instead of yet another device for me to possibly forget, is to make it as an application for both Android AND APPLE devices. That will allow for more software development as the hardware development has already completed.

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