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How to Select the Appropriate Digital Behavioral Therapeutic Platform: The Role of the Primary Care.
4 Minutes
Woman sits in sunny room looking at a laptop screen.
For me, spraying alcohol to my hands has become an obsession. I spray my hands, sit behind my desk — alone in the room — and start to read an article. After a few minutes, before even touching my laptop again, I retake the bottle and respray my hands. This is not the only “new” habit I’ve picked up, I also notice and point out the lack of distancing and hygiene issues as I watch movies and TV shows. Seeing people without face masks in movies and sneezing in a crowded public place makes me anxious now.
These are only a few new obsessive habits that I’ve picked up during this new pandemic.
This pandemic has directly impacted our mental health, a serious impact that will stay with us even after the virus is gone. Whether those affected by the virus directly, or had a relative that was affected or even lost, or for those who are just trying to protect themselves and the others from the virus, the effect this pandemic has had will be lasting. Each one of us can visibly see how anxious and depressed we all have become and can deeply feel the need for some therapeutic help. Researchers say for the psychological cost coming from an infectious disease, we can use the metaphor of “catastrophe”.
A few weeks ago, I was at my parents, sitting in the kitchen and working on “Anxiety During COVID” modules which we had recently received from our research team at the university, when my mom looked at my screen and asked: “Are you working?”
“Yup! Come here! Let me show you what we do at OPTT!”
I scrolled down on one of the completed sessions and as I reached to the bottom of the homework section, my mom said:
“I didn’t tell you, but as the pandemic started I felt very anxious and I downloaded one of these applications on my phone to get some help.”
I was shocked. ”Why didn’t you tell me earlier? Why didn’t you talk to our family doctor to ask her to refer you to a psychologist or a therapist?”
She replied: “I did, and she referred me to someone, but the therapist was very busy, and I could not make any appointments, this is why I downloaded the app, and to be honest, the content was good, however I didn’t continue when they asked me to write about my anxieties and how I feel.”

Using mental health apps on mobile phones and tablet devices is one of the biggest developed areas in e-mental health resources. Benefits like accessibility, portability, affordability, decreased stigmatization, and convenience are some of the most important factors for the increasing speed of this growth. But this increase in downloads for the mental health apps also raises so many questions like:

Patients need to be able to trust in the quality of care they receive.

Numbers show that among about 318,000 health apps which are available (including mental health apps), only 3.41 percent are based on the research which is clearly shown in their effectiveness. The significant contrast between these two numbers makes one think about the time and the energy spent by any given user, regardless of the amount of monthly subscription fees they have to pay for. Is it really worth it?

Reading app reviews by other users that have already used any specific application is one of the main solutions in order to select the right app. But would app reviews be beneficial for selecting the proper mental health platform for one’s specific needs?

We have all used, at least, the free trial for apps such as “Calm” and “Headspace”, but how do we know if these apps are the solution for our mental health situation?

Selecting these apps without knowing the root of our mental health issues is similar to selecting and taking generic vitamins because we’ve heard they are good for our health.

In many cases people that look for these apps don’t know what exactly their issues are and this is when the role of their primary care clinic becomes highlighted and very important, as they provide the first effective triage as they are both professionals and also a trusted source and partner to the patient.

“Why didn’t you continue using the application you downloaded?” I asked my mom. “Because I didn’t know who was going to read the homework they asked me to submit. Will that be a robot knowing about my concerns? Or is it a human, if yes, who are they? Are they qualified? Or just some random person clicking on automated responses?”

When it comes to mental healthcare the therapist’s credentials, qualifications and their method of care become important factors to the patient. Patients need to be able to trust in the quality of care they recieve. This is why it would be beneficial to patients if their trusted primary care clinic recommends a clinically validated mental health platform with a weekly plan, rather than selecting a random 5 star reviewed app with no verifiable human support.

Primary cares that utilize clinically validated platforms such as OPTT have the ability to provide instant service and education to their patients without delay by fostering collaboration between patients, therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists immediately and building a team for a comprehensive care. OPPT allows for optimum collaboration between the primary care and the patient to provide a more efficient and user friendly environment when it comes to mental healthcare.

In today’s digital world, every patient with an assigned primary care deserves to have access to such mental healthcare platforms by default.

“Similar to how a “shoemaker’s child goes barefoot”, unfortunately, my mother’s healthcare provider does not have access to the clinically validated mental health services such as the ones produced by OPTT which entails human interaction with qualified professionals.”

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