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Q&A with Heather Brogan: piloting a new mentoring app for HIV patients

Meet Heather Brogan, one of our Clinical Specialists who is currently working in our innovation unit. Learn about how Heather is collaborating with the HIV community to develop a new digital platform to support people living with HIV.

Heather Brogan is a clinical specialist based out of Boston, USA. Most of her career at ViiV Healthcare has been with our sales teams, where she works to get ensure people living with HIV are getting the medicines they need.

However, for the past few months, Heather stepped away from her ‘day job’ to join our specialist digital innovation unit called the hive. This unit is dedicated to addressing areas of need in HIV care that go beyond treatment, focused on delivering breakthrough digital innovations which improve the lives of those affected by HIV and support the work of the people who care for them.

The hive forms small teams made up of experts inside and outside the pharmaceutical sector, who are charged with addressing a specific challenge and delivering a prototype solution in just 15 weeks. Heather is one of several ViiV Healthcare employees who have joined the hive to take on a challenge.

Only a handful of ideas are taken from protytpe to pilot – one of which is Heather’s, whose team have developed a peer-to-peer mentoring app for people living with HIV. We caught up with Heather to learn about her experience with the hive and the app she is leading on:

What was your challenge in the hive and how did your team respond?

Our team’s challenge was to develop a digital platform to help meet the unmet needs of people living with HIV in the United States.

Through our research, my team focused on how peer support can be a powerful mechanism to help patients navigate the complexities and burden of living with HIV. We found that peer mentorship programmes are often linked to reducing risky behaviours and depressive symptoms as well as increasing links to medical care, adherence to treatment and feelings of emotional support.

With this insight, my team became interested in knowing if patients would experience similar results if they had access to a digital-based peer mentorship programme.

What did the innovation process look like?

We had 15 weeks to deliver our solution. During the first 10 weeks we dug deep into the challenge – pursuing research and generating ideas. By week 10, we pitched our top ideas to the hive and decided to take our peer-to-peer mentoring app to the next level.

My team then spent the next 5 weeks developing our peer-to-peer mentoring app and vision to scale it. Then, we presented our prototype to the hive’s board – it felt like being on a show like ‘Shark Tank’ or ‘Dragon’s Den!’ The hard work paid off, because I am happy to share that the decision was made to pilot the app for the next 12 months!

How will you pilot the peer-to-peer mentoring app?

ViiV Healthcare is partnering with InquisitHealth and Philadelphia FIGHT to pilot the peer-to-peer mentoring app.

InquisitHealth specializes in digital peer mentoring solutions for patients with chronic diseases. We will work with their technical experts to help them build and design the app. InquisitHealth brings know-how around peer mentorship applications and matching algorithms. This expertise is imperative to help ensure the success of the pilot in the short time frames we are operating under.

Philadelphia FIGHT is a health services organisation that supports people at risk or living with HIV. Philadelphia FIGHT will recruit and train community members to actively mentor peers using the app, work with the mentors and mentees to make sure their needs are being met throughout the experience, and provide feedback to Inquisit and ViiV Healthcare regarding the app. During the pilot, our aim is to support 200-300 people living with HIV via the app.

The hive’s mentality is to move quickly – not to recreate the wheel. By collaborating with InquisitHealth and Philadelphia FIGHT, we can work directly with the HIV community to consult on the development of the app. This ensures we are not making assumptions on what the community wants, but really listening to them and addressing their unmet needs.

What have you enjoyed about working in the hive?

I have to say, this is one of the best jobs I have ever had. One of the things that I really like is that I have been given an opportunity to focus all my energy on this specific challenge. At the hive I’ve had the chance to work on an idea from inception to implementation, gain experience in strategic planning, project management, contract negotiations, and budgeting – not to mention the new networks I have built within ViiV Healthcare and beyond.

Why do you think is it important that ViiV Healthcare is involved in innovation?

Given that we are solely focused on HIV, I think it’s phenomenal that we are focused on developing technology that can improve HIV patients’ lives. ViiV healthcare is working hard to be at the heart of care for people living with HIV, and the hive helps us get there. At the end of the day, anything we can do to make a difference for people living with HIV is worth it to me!

Learn more about how ViiV Healthcare collaborates to innovate for people affected by HIV. Check out our latest job opportunities on LinkedIn