Understanding the acceptability, utilisation and current evidence base of mHealth and online interventions: a traditional and non-traditional approach.
Introduction: There is an increased acceptance and demand for online and mobile health (mHealth) interventions to support physical and mental health problems. However, the uptake and engagement of these interventions is relatively low and the evidence base for these interventions requires continual updating in line with technological advances. A systematic review was conducted, focusing on anxiety and depression, to explore the existing evidence base of both physical health and mental health mobile applications. The first research paper explores the acceptability of mHealth interventions for both mental health and physical health problems. The final research paper explores use and strategies when searching for mental health information online. Additionally, perceived quality, sentiment and barriers to online health information was explored. Methods: Studies were identified by searching for articles published between January 2008 and January 2016. Databases included: PsycINFO, MEDLINE, CINAHL PLUS and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials for 2016. In the research articles, 218 people completed an online survey in January 2016 exploring, online health seeking for mental health and physical health problems, and acceptability of mHealth interventions. Sentiment of online health resources was explored by extracting 432 individual tweets from Twitter. Results: The systematic review revealed twenty-seven studies for inclusion; 10 with a physical health focus and 17 with a mental health focus. Targeted depression applications have the superior evidence base; however, no firm conclusions can be made regarding interventions that targeted physical health, or those measuring anxiety. The first research paper found that face-to-face therapy would more likely meet expectations for treatment of both physical and mental health problems compared to mHealth interventions. Computerised interventions were more likely to meet expectations than mobile applications. Expectations of treatment were higher for the treatment of mental health problems than physical health problems. The second research paper found that a large proportion of the public use the internet to search for information on mental health, with half citing it as their primary source for mental health information. The online survey found that the quality of mental health information available on the internet was rated favourably, compared to mobile applications. Overall, the sentiment towards specific online mental health resources was generally positive. Conclusions: Research into online and mHealth interventions has developed considerably in recent years in line with advances in technology. These interventions have the potential to be an effective treatment of common mental health problems. The systematic review highlighted that depression applications are more established and effective than applications targeting anxiety. The first research paper suggests that mHealth interventions fall short of public expectations for treatment of health problems. The final research paper reflects that the perceived quality of online mental health information is rated favourably. However, many barriers still limit uptake. Future research could focus on continually developing and evaluating evidence based online and mHealth interventions and the outcome of this study suggests that incorporating them more widely into existing care systems, alongside face to face interventions could increase the public’s confidence in these interventions.
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