While patients with depression or behavioral issues won’t always show up for scheduled appointments, they are inclined to stick with using an app that helps them cope and monitor their moods.
In fact, a mobile app was just as effective as a clinical intervention in treating people with serious mental illnesses with a significantly better rate of treatment, says researchers from the In a new study involving 163 patients, 90% of patients asked to use a mobile app to monitor their mental health did so compared with 58% of patients that were asked to attend one group therapy session.
“We may lose close to half of our patients when we ask them to come to a clinic,” says Dror Ben-Zeev, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “This mobile approach was not only more accessible to them, clinically it was as helpful as group sessions conducted in person.”
The University of Washington School of Medicine created its Focus Apple and Google app to address mental health patients with auditory hallucinations (“hearing voices”), mood problems, sleep, social-functioning problems and medication use.
Among the 163 participants, 49% of patients had schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, 28% had bipolar disorder and 23% suffered from depression. On average, the participants were 49 years old and 59% of the patients were male and 65% were African American.
The study found that significantly more participants fully completed eight weeks or more using the mobile app (56%) than group therapy sessions (40%).
“Participants gave high satisfaction ratings of both interventions, saying both were approachable, enjoyable and helped them feel better,” Ben-Zeev says. Serious mental illnesses impact about 4% of all Americans. But when mental health patients need help, they often avoid getting help at a clinic because of their fear of being labeled mentally ill and stigmatized, or because of difficulty getting to a clinic, says the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Mobile apps can be used as a new and more convenient way to help patients better manage their illness in a way that is more private and convenient, Ben-Zeev says. “The biggest advantage for most patients is convenience—mental healthcare whenever and wherever they needed it,” he says.
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