When it comes to digital mental health applications, you will find a large number of application downloads, but recent research shows that despite a large number of downloads, the majority of users do not use these apps long term. Downloading an app, surfing around for the first couple of days, responding to the automated notifications for a couple of weeks, and then not opening the app until we are cleaning up our phones and finally deleting them forever… that seems to be the case with these apps.
Many studies are working on different factors that affect behavioral health management when it comes to using mental health apps. Not having optimized features and lack of functionality are common cons between most available mental health apps. A literature review by Zhihan Lv et al. formulates sixteen evidence-based recommendations for mental health applications. While having all sixteen recommendations applied in one app is a far stretch, however, according to this research, the interactive framework that increases the engagement of users with the app is an important factor.
And this is what our experience at OPTT has shown: a structured, interactive, and clinically driven program that makes the process convenient and enhances comprehension for many users.
In addition to the basic benefits of asynchronous supervised therapeutic sessions, such as reduced pre-existing stigma, increased level of convenience, reduced wait-line, and reasonable cost, the asynchronous nature of the supervised mental health app, helps the patients to get more effective results.
In this asynchronous environment, there is a personal level of attention that the care provider gives to the patient which makes the plan effective and at the same time there is sufficient time for each user to completely comprehend and digest the information of each session.
Compared to in-person sessions where there is a specific amount of time set for each session of the therapy, one is always concerned about several factors such as asking questions when they don’t understand a specific part of the session. However, in asynchronous sessions, we have enough time to read and comprehend the material, generate our questions as we study the material, and finally ask questions at our own pace. This allows us to communicate with the therapist objectively after receiving feedback. Furthermore, one can always go back and revisit the session materials on their own time to further their understanding of the goals intended by that session. This results in a high quality of care with a greater outcome in terms of engagement and retention. The cherry on top is the continuous support even after finishing the program.
With the core of evidence-based therapy including CBT and DBT, OPTT has designed a program which is planned for the long term and consistent care. In this design, after completion of the program, there will be automatic monthly follow-ups through questionnaires, followed by reports and recommendations of re-enrolments for the care provider’s review based on the responses received. This is possible through the aid of an A.I. and allows for more continuous care rather than periodic therapeutic sessions, and removes the burden of patients constantly having to be cognizant of their mental health. In essence, this process will become a “maintenance” rather than a “treatment”.
In the next article, we will discuss how such platform can be an effective tool from the care providers perspective.