A teenager from Cork has developed an award-winning app called Stellar to help deliver occupational therapy services – how can app development assist OTs in the field?

There are thousands of children in Ireland waiting on their first occupational therapy assessment.

It’s estimated that around 30,000 children in Ireland are currently waiting to be assessed by an occupational therapist; it’s important to note that this problem has been greatly exacerbated by the global pandemic, which has caused wait times for thousands of health services to sky rocket, leaving medical professionals, clients and patients in the lurch as valiant attempts are being made to bring services back on track. 

In County Cork, 13-year-old Saanvi Kaushik saw her paediatric occupational therapist mum, Sarika, work hard during lockdown to deliver care to her clients, but struggling due to the limitations placed on her because of the pandemic. Around the same time, Saanvi’s science teacher contacted her with information about a 12-week programme from the education non-profit Technovation, which aimed to encourage girls to take an interest in technology and problem solving. In the course, she was taught to code apps – that is, to use technology to produce applications for phones – and using her new-found knowledge, she sought to produce an app that might make her mum’s life a little bit easier.

The outcome was the creation of Stellar, which is currently in the prototype stages, but Saanvi hopes to launch it soon. The Stellar app allows occupational therapists to create profiles, maintain records, offer private remote sessions, and even provide resources to parents while they wait for their children to attend an occupational therapy assessment. She still has a few things to do before people can use it, like make sure it’s GDPR and HIPAA compliant before it’s released to the public, and add in a few features like push notifications.

“There are currently 30,000 children waiting for Occupational Therapy in Ireland and these waiting times are only getting worse due to COVID-19. As the lists get longer more children are suffering. I thought there must be a way to use technology to tackle this,” Saanvi said.

“I hope that Stellar will support families by providing high-quality content developed by experienced Occupational Therapists and allowing them to search for these services in their localities. Every child, no matter where they live, should have access to the highest quality services.”

Saanvi went on to be selected as one of six finalists in the Technovation competition, which saw her beat out almost 6000 other young women from across the world who were developing the some 1700 apps entered into the competition.

She said: “I am so happy to have received this award. I believed that Stellar was a good idea and I think that the app I have developed could really make a difference for many children and their families.”

A Gap in the Market
There’s nothing worse than wanting something that doesn’t exist. Hunting high and low for a thing you know will solve your problems, only to find that, actually, there’s no such thing, and you’ve got to go on without it. At The OT Magazine, we frequently mention apps and technology that have been created to help OTs, but you might still be wondering, “where is the tech that does what I need?” If that’s the case, why not be like Saanvi and get coding?

Coding sounds difficult, but it’s an absolutely invaluable skill in a digital information society that can help you in many other facets of your life outside of making groundbreaking phone apps. Best of all – you can learn for free. Even if you don’t know your HTML from your Javascript, there will be a class for you that can teach everything from the basics to expert tricks, and everything in between.

If the idea of revolutionising occupational therapy using tech created by OTs for OTs is something you like, but you don’t know where to start, don’t worry! There are hundreds (probably thousands, too many to count) of resources online to help you. Codeacademy and Khan Academy are absolutely fantastic tools for anyone who feels like coding may not be a skill for their wheelhouse, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how simple and fun both of these (free!) websites make learning a brand new skill. 

Don’t just dream about it, make your ideas happen. Visit codeacademy.com or khanacademy.org to get started on your coding adventure.

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay 

Article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 21 issue of The OT Magazine.

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