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Hottest Apps of the Month: MobileYou: Connecting the city of Columbia

 

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MobileYou is an app made by 5 graduate student nurses as a project for a community health nursing class. Their passion to make an impact on their community has not gone unnoticed. For this episode, we have Phil Newman and Sarah-Jane Baserman to tell us what their app is all about, why they built it, what their journey was like, and how you as a viewer can get involved.

What is Mobile You?

MobileYou is a free app available for Android and Apple phones that helps users find free meals, food pantries, clinics, transportation, jobs, skills tools, and much more. This app connects thousands of people in the Columbus Metropolitan area to free and cost-effective resources that fit their needs. This mobile-based resource-sharing platform is made mostly to serve vulnerable and under-served populations in the Columbus, Ohio.

Why an App?

At first, the team was not so sure if they should make an app. They wondered if enough people would even have a smart phone to access the app. To find out for sure, the team launched a study and found that people of all backgrounds had smart-phones. Even more surprising, their study found that nobody had made an app to target the community’s health issues. This presented a huge window of opportunity and MobileYou was ready to answer the call.

Roadblocks

For MobileYou, creating a database that was up-to-date was the most difficult part of the process. Many of the resources they included were seasonal, and could go out of business within a year. This meant the team was always on the phone, reaching out to organizations and community leaders to get the up-to-date information on each available resource.

Using Buildfire

The team had limited IT skills and was not completely sure if their idea could work. Before buying an app building software, they wanted to experiment with the idea for free . This was exactly why they chose Buildfire, since it does not charge users until their apps are publicly launched. The emulator app within Buildfire allowed them to preview their app to ask professors and classmates for improvements.

Do not be intimidated

It can be intimidating for people who have no background of coding or app-building to start. MobileYou encourages viewers by telling them not to let a lack of IT experience stop them from getting their job done. MobileYou persevered, and they are confident they can now tackle any challenges coming their way. MobileYou hopes the same mentality is embraced by anyone trying to tackle on any sort of project.

Network

When the team started, they had no idea how many resources were out there. Their initiative to step forward and ask around, led them from one resource to the next. Everyone they talked to had at least a couple of recommendation for MobileYou. You never know whom you will meet along the journey, but you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and network.

Find the right partners

Your partners need to be a reflection of what you stand for. Their vision and mission should align with your own. They don’t necessarily need to be in the same industry as yours, but they should have a similar drive and passion.

You should never take on projects alone. There is a limit to how much you and your close circle can accomplish. The more people you bring in, who also have the right attitudes, the greater the impact you are able to make.

Always strive to do more

Your job title is only a fraction of the type of work you do. Be involved and integrated within the community. Many of the same skills and passion you have can easily be a great asset elsewhere. If you are an accountant, maybe that means helping struggling families balance out their finances to get out of debt. For MobileYou, it means providing relief for many preventable health issues before they erupt – which, in the long run, helps alleviate the costs for families and the healthcare industry.

You might be the only one.

MobileYou’s research showed to them they were the only ones trying to connect their communities to much-needed resources. For them, it became their obligation. They knew they had to create MobileYou and that in doing so, all the weight would fall on their shoulders as the pioneers. Sometimes, you might be the only one, and maybe that’s exactly who you need to be.

Don’t quit on yourself before you start.

You will never know how much will achieve if you never start. Often times, new projects are overwhelming. But with small determined steps, you can accomplish great things. MobileYou was not sure their idea would be effective or possible until they started putting in the long hours of work. If they had quit, the thousands of people they serve would still go about their lives deprived of the much-needed help due to a lack of information.

Helping out the cause

If you love what MobileYou is doing and would like to help in any way, the first thing you should do is contact them through their website. After you contact them, there are two main ways that you can contribute, both of which MobileYou will guide you through. The first is by volunteering your time to gather information about available resources . The second is by putting together a team to start MobileYou in your city.

Every city has its own needs. If you want to set up a MobileYou app for your city, there are a few questions you will need answers to. Such as:

  • What’s the biggest problem affecting the overall health of your community?
  • How do you think this problem can be best represented?
  • What are some of the biggest diseases affecting your community?
  • What are some of the problems with getting people the type of treatment and care they need?

Transcript

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Librado: Welcome to hottest apps of the month brought build fire podcast all about apps that are making a difference whether it be in a community or in the business apps are leaving a lasting impact. We invite their creators to share their strategies and tricks and wisdom am your host Librado Hernandez and with me today are two of the nursing professional behind MobileYou, Phil Newman and Sarah Jane Baserman, so can you tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Phil: Sure the both of us are actually graduate nursing students right now with the eventual goals of becoming nurse practitioners am running this accelerated program that takes a second degree from my bachelors and some other fields that [unclear 00:36]nurse practitioner in the cause of three years and the first half of that is a basic nurse [unclear – 00:40] education which includes a community health component which is what led us to the app in the first place but at the moment we are both nursing students.

Librado: Who wanted you to start that app and why?

Phil: The community health class that we were in had this open ended project where we had to detail some kind of public health or community health phenomenon and you know we were kind of giving a very open ended perspective on how to approach it and the initial topic we were assign didn’t feel within any of the expertise that we had then so one night while I was working in the hospital I just kind of thought wouldn’t that be interesting you know if we kind of did a community health project in app form for vulnerable populations to help them find local resources you know pantries and home own shelters in one night home shelters and what not and then I can kind said well it’s kind of silly nobody in those population probably has a smart phone you know we said well let’s look into the research when we did we were blown away that the statistics showed that people in all backgrounds actually had a smart phones but no one yet is really made an app to kind of target the community health care for this communities and individuals so once we saw that we said well as part of this project we can absolutely recommend making an app and let’s see what it would be like if we can do it our self sure enough we found build fire and said wow! This fit perfectly with unlimited IT background that can really help us build the app you know in a way that can actually help people you know it went from kind of being a whimsical thought to making something we can actually use and publish and with that app we got really excited about it.

Sarah: And with the feedback that we received from it was the momentum that keep going was we don’t think we even know initially what we had created but we thought it was a good idea internally and everyone else reiterate what a great idea that it was miss you know from Trinity health sector.

Phil: It started with us trying to get an A on a class project (both laughs) now is turned in to something quite a bit more

Librado: So you talked a little bit about how this wasn’t really done before or you didn’t really see it done as much how do you feel that is up till now nobody is trying to tackle this as much as you have?

Phil: Sure, there’s a lot of different factors that are involved you know on the one hand this is not really a money making enterprise so you see a lot of you know there’s a lot of ways to monetize and profit off of apps you know even if it’s [unclear – 02:44] advertizing a product of your own but if you trying to use it as a community health resource you know you can’t charge people for it and you can’t really sell add space because you have to worry about you know the amount of that the people use and you want to make sure that you really focus on health related goals so putting in that’s two types of advertising doesn’t really make sense so it’s not really a lucrative proposition un top of that you have communities that are very networked but not very centralized so there’s not usually one area as in one township or city that kind of dispenses information about where you can find every resource or usually just little you know great organization here and there that may not necessarily be interconnected with one another. So I think on top of that you know have technology used for health care purposes as a whole you know it’s not new but it’s also not very old either so I just don’t think every avenue potential health care applications been explored yet.

Sarah: And one last point is kind of what he talked about earlier as I think a lot of people dismiss this lower income population of having smart phones are having access to the internet is not and so the idea wasn’t even explored initially from the you know just a question off hand

Phil: That’s true some of the initial feedback we have from people was why would you make an app for individuals with not income when they don’t have smart phones and then we had to show them the research that says actually yeah they do just as many people in our population have smart phone

Librado: What was the major problem that you were trying to solve with the app?

Phil: That’s a great question. So in Columbus Ohio you know where we are from if you need to find resources if you just showed up today in need of resources didn’t know where to turn they will give you a piece of paper with a bunch of addresses on it and where to go wouldn’t tell you how to get there, wouldn’t tell you what [unclear – 04:23] wouldn’t even tell you [unclear – 04:26] over there I mean it’s a great first start and we commend the people that put us together but some of this stuff is so specific certain individuals the need to not really address on one piece of paper that we said you know let’s put this on an app and let’s put this in the hands of someone that can carry it and access it anytime instead of a piece of paper that can get lost or turn or [unclear – 04:45] to someone so now you have a means of not only having this information with you anytime anywhere but because of build fire interfaces you can actually navigate from where you are people tell you I guess it’s just two blocks away but this is across town you know you might need to run some kind of probably transportation you will find some transportation to get you there and that’s huge because is not just about getting people the names resources it’s about actually putting them on the door steps to get the services that they need and I think that really gets addressed by what we are trying to do here.

Librado: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of how you are able to turn that piece of paper and make it into an app?

Phil: Yeah quite a bit more you know I mean we could Google data down addresses into the build fire templates all we wanted but you know we had to look through every resource that we found to make sure this is something that really represented the need of the community. You know we also had to use our ties within the nursing college and with you know our connection with health care to branch out beyond just as piece of paper because Columbus has so many resources available that aren’t included on that piece of paper they are so much out there so you know we has to do a lot of our own for some connection within the community you know and really kind of go through line by line to see how best to represent something you know if it was a hotline you know you will use one kind of interface within wild fire if it was something which had a location in it you need to get to use another so it was quite a bit of work evolved

Librado: What where some of the road blocks you had to watch out for as you were building those all this?

Phil: Specifically to our project one of the biggest road block was we had to make sure that all the areas that we were finding to put in other than the resources and the services where still available. A lot of them you know can pop up and go out of business within a year

Sarah: So as you are right things were seasonal even we found a kind of goes back to problem with the piece of paper is we were finding it wasn’t even updated regularly and how would the resource change this on the season or the location or sometimes the information there is just too much to even include on the [unclear – 06:40] so.

Phil: From the actual building and development stand point we didn’t run into a whole lot of road blocks at all other than you know I mean we not very IT literate so you know we had to learn you know what an RSS feed was and what an ICAL feed was because those where now that was the formal language from a national development stand point but that was the easiest part, parts was getting all together in ones part easiest part was using build fire to get it on our own

Librado: So a little bit more on how build fire kind of helped you out to get this all together, what features in build fire helped you out the most?

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Phil: Really we haven’t even explored half of what you know the things within build fire that we can use while it was so great to be able to play around with it for free that was a big thing for us because when this project started we didn’t even know if we can do it and so to be able to play around with it for free and then to have the emulator app within build fire that we can use to show to our teachers and show to our class mates and say what do you think of this is there something is this look like something that’s profitable and what kinds of you know corrections we can make from there was I mean that was such a huge benefit because if we had just designed this on a web site and kind of rely on our own you know maybe being presented the way that it looks on the website am not a hundred percent sure we were to stock it out but because of all the tools that build fire had available to us in terms of not really building but presenting you know before we had to pay a dime to publish it was tremendously helpful and then on that side after we published it just being tremendous working relationship you know if I ever need information on how many downloads we’ve have I get that within fifteen minutes I send them an email and working me through the process of because we one point we wanted to change our logo and our description at the app store and it was walking through that process without involving it’s been such a huge help to relief us of the burden of having to do some IT work which we even know where to begin to start

Sarah: I think the interface is nice because is simplistic enough to use but has enough of this features but as we have advanced kind of to develop this app even more we going to incorporate new features that we would have no idea you know six months ago that we’ve been [unclear – 08:41]

Phil: Yeah I would say the app is evolving because the features are they help you get up and running initially but then the more you explore the more you realize oh! I can actually do a whole lot more I can present this certain service in an entirely different way I can put the logo on there put the picture of the building so people know that they are in the right spot so yeah it’s just been a great experience all around for us

Librado: What are some of the biggest take aways when building the app?

Phil: I would say for us one of the biggest take aways is to never under estimate how many people you can actually reach with an app at the offset we thought well you know we can make an app but it’s not going to affect anything and because we just didn’t anticipate anybody within the community having access to a smart phone and once we did our research and we found not only can we build for this community but they are other services that we can provide to people that may not come from a vulnerable population but may need a certain service for a certain example we include mental health services in the app and someone needs to find an alcoholic synonymous meeting it almost certainly have to be from a certain population that we are targeting you know anybody can benefit from it. Well obvious take aways is a target community or target audience is so much smaller than what we actually give credit for, so much larger than we give credit for I should say. One of the biggest take aways that we’ve gotten form this professionally within our college too is you know we didn’t let the lack of IT experience kind of prevent us from trying to get this done it can be so intimidating for people that have no knowledge of coding no knowledge of AP building and maintenance to start something like this and you know we just didn’t say no at the offset we didn’t tell ourselves we couldn’t do it and that was such a big take away because I think moving forward now you know on future projects it’s best to give them the perception that this is received am never going to tell myself no until I absolutely know that I can’t do it. (All laughs)

Librado: One of the things that you were talking about was how you were able to successfully find out what needs the community has and then being able to go and fill that need could you walk us a little bit to how you were able to identify what needs and how you were able to go back and collect that information to see if it’s something that they actually have use for?

Sarah: It’s really honestly feels kind of the most over whelming part of it is we got started thinking that maybe they were just you know twenty to thirty resources out there that service this population and as we kind of dug in to the project we realized there’s hundreds and hundreds of clinic and services and free food pantries things like that or out of Columbus so a lot of it is kind of being we use the cliché boots on the ground we we’ve been going to community leaders one referral to another referral and it’s just kind of we’ve been running about all this resources by networking all the people in the community who work in this kind of industry who [unclear – 11:17] and that’s been the heart and goal at the same time is not just something you can Google and have it be done where a thousand resources show up to including this app it’s been a lot of work meeting this people, understanding what their populations want and then also deciding is this organization have a great mission that we want to include in our app and stuff like that so

Phil: I think we were bolstered too by coming from a nursing education background our community health class that kind of led to the development of this app really prepared us in a lot of ways for this type of questions that answered a lot of those questions before we had them you know so we knew what some of the major social indicators for health issues were and what are some of the biggest diseases that affect low income populations and you know we had a lot of those questions answered before we started and that really helped direct this towards knowing what to include and what maybe we didn’t need to put in the first version of the app.

Librado: You guys are doing amazing things honestly I get

Phil: Thank you

Librado: It really warms my heart to see as a group of people out there who are trying to make a difference in spite in bringing in a lot of revenue in spite it being a market that really isn’t going to be throwing you money left and right there’s a need and you guys have filled that need to the best of your ability and I greatly appreciate that. And so what I want to know is what drives you and why do you keep doing this?

Phil: It’s a great question we are nursing students so we got in to this because we want to be there and help people and care for people and you know nursing is so much more than just being at the bed side and cooling somebody’s towel with a damp towel or something, and giving them medications it’s being you know involved and integrated with some of the community and you know there’s so many different you know just from a cost perspective the amount of money that gets spent on health care preventable diseases and preventable symptom emergencies is tremendous and if you can meet those issues before they erupt in the community and within the individual through some of this social services that are offered you know I wasn’t doing this service to this communities you doing a service to the health care industry as a whole which benefits everybody it benefits so many different networks of people in the communities the more healthy people are involved so it’s a no brainer for us to seek out and try to do preventive medicine of overall health awareness promotion that’s just we came from you know as future nurses and hopefully it will then continue

Sarah: And again the feedback I was so naive when we made this thinking that we were duplicating something that was already out there and finding out that there’s nothing out there and being told over and over again that this population doesn’t have this resources and this sort of technology has just being motivation alone it’s almost like creating an obligation that we have to do this (laughs)

Phil: Yeah

Sarah: Everyone’s out there is not depending on our shoulders and its good pressure (both laughs)

Phil: Yeah to repeat back on what she was saying too I mean when we first start out we wouldn’t need to make an app am sure no one has cell phones over they do have cell phones well then am sure someone’s already made the app and then we [unclear – 14:06] are like no, no one in Ohio no one in the Midwest, no one in the country has tried to do something like this it was kind of mind bugling to us so we said well you know let’s get ball rolling and get the conversation started in Columbus and like she said the reception we got from real people in Texas and Pittsburg and Michigan and Illinois they want a version of MobileYou for their city

Sarah: It wasn’t even exist in those [unclear – 14:30] (both laughs)

Librado: So how do you guys try to take what you have now and expand it, what’s next essentially?

Phil: Yeah that’s a great question we’ve had some pretty lengthy discussions about that too you know our biggest needs are not just you know urban areas but also in rural areas. So Columbus is kind of a big city surrounded by pastures everywhere (all laughs) so we kind of want to we want to move west and incorporate another neighboring city about an hour down the road [unclear – 14:57] Spring field you know we cannot move them get so much momentum from there and some other areas in Ohio and we’ve thought about the different ways we will have to work with the design but you know so far we haven’t run into any structure unless used with build fire the biggest challenge for us is just going to be finding the time for the two of us to sit down and typing every resources all over again for another new city

Sarah: We were [unclear – 15:19]

Phil: Yeah

Librado: How can people in the community help you to kind of get this rolling faster? Because from what I just heard now is just the two of you that is, is there any way people can help is there a website they can go to, to keep the mission going?

Phil: Yeah so we have a website it’s right now it’s mobileyoucolumbus.com and you can also find us on facebook and on twitter and you can really for us cause you know we know that they are so many different communities in need but because we are so limited right now we need people who you know be willing to volunteer their time to help us do some you know data entry to get the app as robust as possible and then from the outside communities is letting us know when you are ready you know when you have the available resources within the city that would you know be able to take the time to talk with us about what your needs are and how we can represent you, you know that’s huge you know because you know if you go to New York you have five burrows in New York and if you not from New York you may not necessarily know how to communicate to tell somebody to go from you know one area of the city to another and you know you might use local language instead of the language that you know applies everywhere so it’s being getting people engrained within the communities to tell us how we can represent you I think that’s a big need for us you know optimistically you know it’s something we are ready and happy to do but it is a need.

Librado: They said there’s a bunch of nursing student in Oregon who hear this podcast and like men that’s something that’s amazing lets help them out, what can this do from that moment after they’ve heard this podcast to get to the point where your app is in Oregon in their city helping other community, what step will they need to take everything from gathering the information and the contact and sending you the information what would they need to do like now?

Phil: The biggest thing is get in touch with us and tell us what you need cause every city has a different need just like individuals have different health concerns so do cities, so what’s the biggest problems affecting the overall community and how do you know thing you can be best represented because we are not naive enough to think that we are the answers everywhere you know we just know what we know what made us successful from a logistic stand point from a technical stand point it’s you know it’s doing the research finding out what do the people need? What are some of the biggest diseases that are affecting individuals in the city? And you know what are some of the biggest problems with getting people the kind of treatment and care that they need and if you can answer those questions you got 90% of the work done.

Sarah: Yeah no I agree Just identify I mean I know what’s [unclear – 17:36] reiterate it, is just by identifying who wants to do the [unclear – 17:39] Who’s in this mission with us and contacting us with the [unclear – 17:43] and we can walk with you through the process of how we got started and hopefully then relate from city to city

Phil: Yeah just another stuff long hours and no money but (both laughs) it makes you feel better about yourself you know about what you are doing for another people at the end of the day.

Librado: So far am helping with communities so how else do you feel that this is kind of app can fit into health care industry?

Phil: Oh! It can be used in some of the different areas in so many different ways you know I mean I think some of the hardest things to do are you know to find different clinics I mean you know insurance information’s changes all the time you know what providers are available and what not. So outside of just the community resources it’s know what I my if I need to see a cardiologist in Columbus where do I go? Where do I start? If I want to you know if you just diagnosed me with you know with high blood pressure who do I need to see? What should I do? An app like this can tell you say like we educational information on certain disease stage that we are you know getting ready to push in to the app you know and you know and the app is not even community oriented but health oriented can say our blood pressure mean you have this it means probably taking one of this medication and this is how often you take it, and here is what happens if you miss a doze, so this are the warning signs you should look at for and this are the people that you need to call I mean the list go on and on I mean I can’t even if I have to sit down and think of all the ways this could affect health care I can spend a month and I still wouldn’t come up with half of the things that I can think of

Sarah: Yeah I mean we are really looking in to components of women health or look into a new pregnancy the first time and you don’t want to do and we can have that or another one was looking into all the adult services where maybe an adult child is now also to be faced with their older parents going from health crisis or housing crisis or something like that and they can use this app to kind of figure out what resources are available which they wouldn’t have known a way to approach that sort of thing in their everyday life because they weren’t faced with that issue to begin with

Librado: You guys are doing amazing things with this, thank you so much

(OVER TALKING)

Phil: We appreciate everything that build fire is done you know having an opportunity to talk about you it might you know convince other people to give this a shot and not quite on themselves before this start that’s huge you know

Librado: Is definitely is

Phil: Again thank you for the opportunity if anybody out there is listening and they want to get in touch with us you can visit our website you know get in touch with us on twitter, email we are happy to hear from everyone we are trying to get as many [unclear – 20:07] as possible in other countries so no stone will go un turned

Sarah: If you have suggestions for improvement or any suggestion to add you can because we are always amazed every day we find something new that we find something new that we should be including on the app

Phil: We do that’s very true

Librado: Thank you so much for your time

Phil: Thank you

Sarah: Thank you

Librado: Well viewers that concludes the show thank you so much for joining us today for all of you who love learning want real actual stuffs to grow your business and expand your own skill sets then head on over to our website buidfire.com/blog and click on our podcast section as always we committed to your success my name is Librado Hernandez and I will see you again next week.

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