Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at UNC Healthcare and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom.
UNC, Duke Team up with Carrboro-based Caktus Group on HIV Gaming App
CHAPEL HILL — The web application development company Caktus Group has teamed up with researchers at the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases and the Duke Global Health Institute to develop a mobile phone app that may help patients better adhere to their medication regimens.
The new venture is funded by a $150,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institutes of Health. The study team will develop a novel mobile phone game app with the goal of improving medication adherence among HIV-infected young black men who have sex with men. In the United States, this is the demographic with the highest number of new HIV infections.
The Daily Dose app will utilize game mechanics and social networking features to improve adherence to HIV medication. In addition to scheduled medication reminders and adherence tracking, Daily Dose will use gaming features to create a compelling and engaging experience that will motivate and support behavior change. The app will also promote social interaction, which will allow users to share their successes and encourage others to maintain their adherence goals. Gamers will be awarded points for sharing their own successes and providing support and encouragement to their fellow gamers. The study team hopes this anonymous social network of peer support will drive patients to maintain their medication schedules.
While Caktus Group leads the development of the game, the usability studies will be conducted by Lisa Hightow-Weidman, MD, associate professor of medicine at UNC and Sara LeGrand, PhD, assistant research professor at the Duke Global Health Institute. The researchers will organize focus groups and conduct a series of in-person interviews with potential users to get feedback on the app’s design throughout the development process.
“Because the game will be designed, developed and refined based on consistent user feedback, we are confident that Daily Dose will be both engaging and effective,” said Tobias McNulty, principlal investigator and managing member at Caktus Group.
Ultimately, Daily Dose aims to improve drug adherence among a population disproportionately affected by HIV by developing an effective antiretroviral therapy adherence app tailored specifically for this group. Recent research has shown that treating HIV makes people less contagious and drastically reduces the spread of the virus to sexual partners. Through careful design and development, this new project hopes to improve patient outcomes and reduce the spread of HIV among a vulnerable population.
About Caktus Group
Caktus Consulting Group, LLC is a growing team of creative developers and designers based in Carrboro, North Carolina. The company was founded in August 2007 to serve the web needs of startups, researchers, health care organizations, and established businesses in the North Carolina Triangle region and beyond. Caktus Group’s specialty is creating web and mobile applications using Django, an open source web framework that is business friendly and easily customized. By listening carefully, Caktus Group develops products that clients consistently say are intuitive and fill needs they had not yet discovered.
About the UNC Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases
Founded in 2007, the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases at UNC harnesses the resources of the University and its partners to solve local and global health problems, reduce the burden of disease, and inspire and train the next generation of leaders in global health.
About the Duke Global Health Institute
The Duke Global Health Institute, established in 2006, brings knowledge from every corner of Duke University to bear on the most important global health issues of our time. DGHI was established as a University-wide institute to coordinate, support, and implement Duke’s interdisciplinary research, education, and service activities related to global health. DGHI is committed to developing and employing new models of education and research that engage international partners and find innovative solutions to global health challenges.