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mHealth Interventions Streamline Provider, Caregiver Management

mHealth interventions offer providers and caregivers streamlined management for patient care, as well as care-associated stress.

mHealth interventions streamline provider and caregiver management

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- mHealth interventions are being tested, tried, and evaluated by health experts across the country to streamline provider and caregiver management.

Allowing patients to access communication and support through flexible, mobile devices can enhance health behaviors, improve medication adherence, and alert providers to critical health symptoms or risk factors.

Contemporary use cases show that healthcare intervention through mHealth can effectively treat mental, chronic health, and even reduce the stress caregivers experience at home.

Intervention-based text messages effectively manage adolescent psychiatry

A team from the Washington University School of Medicine used text message interventions as a cost-effective way to track symptoms and ideation of adolescents with depression and autism.

Through two platforms called EpxDepression (for depression treatment) and EpxAutism (for austism treatment) providers prescribed SMS interventions to patients to help probe for behaviors, mental health risks, and establish communication between providers and patients.

READ MORE: How to Design and Develop a Mobile Health Application

After the completion of the initial pilot program, providers effectively probed quality responses from patients with depression with weekly response rates of 100 percent in the opening months of the pilot.

Daily mood and sleep questionnaires had patient response rates of 66.3 percent and 64.7 percent, respectively. Providers also were able to detect thoughts of self-harm and similar ideation before case managers and caregivers.

Providers experienced even higher response rates from patients with autism. Autistic patients using EpxAutism had weekly response rates of 100 percent and overall response rates of 85 percent. The patients felt this was the “perfect amount of communication” and providers saw drastically improved communication between the patients and themselves.

Based on their findings, the team believes that technologies such as these platforms can help change traditional behavioral health management with more mobile and flexible solutions.

“Phone and text message interventions offer a promising, inexpensive platform to increase access to care for adolescent patients with depression and ASD and give providers a method to track symptoms and behaviors with unprecedented temporal resolution,” the team concluded. “We envision EpxDepression and EpxAutism as stepping stones toward replacing traditional behavioral tracking, which is often limited by access and is biased by retrospective completion.”

READ MORE: mHealth Interventions Benefit Weight Management in Children

Smartphone messaging improves health behaviors for low-income children

Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles utilized STVM (short text or voice message) interventions to increase physical activity, goal setting, self-monitoring, and familial support for low-income diabetes patients.

In a 12-week pilot, the team split 42 low-income latino diabetic patients into three control groups: one that had phone messaging, one that had social support as well as phone messaging, and a control group without SVTM. Over the 12-week period, roughly 62.7 percent of the patients that received text messages responded to behavioral prompts, and patients that received voice messages responded 30 percent of the time.

The final results indicated that all patients improved their physical activity after six weeks, but only the patients with the STVM were able to continue improvement through the total 12 weeks. STVM interventions also made patients feel like their family and social support systems were involved with their behavior change. STVM for these patients encouraged and facilitated critical self-care behaviors in which diabetic patients should take part.

Since the patients found the use of guidance and monitoring useful, the researchers concluded that STVM interventions like the one used in study can be adjusted for effective diabetes treatment, regardless of socioeconomic barriers.

READ MORE: Pediatric Mobile Health Interventions Benefit Patients, Caregivers

“This study found that it was feasible to reach and engage urban, low-income Latino adults with type 2 diabetes and their family members and friends using an STVM intervention,” the team said. “In addition, this study found that guidance in self-regulation was a useful mechanism for supporting physical activity behavior change via STVMs.

mHealth interventions reduce stress for cancer patient caregivers

A study lead by Hackensack University Medical Center and the University of Colorado found that mHealth interventions were favorable by caregivers to reduce the stress that comes with managing cancer patients who received allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants (allo-HSCT).

The team researched common stressors that occur in allo-HSCT caregivers to develop a web-based intervention platform called Pep-Pal. Caregivers of allo-HSCT often experience depression and anxiety because of how vulnerable their patients are to sickness, outside infection, and other critical illnesses.

Pep-Pal offered caregivers in the study video-based stress management tools, questionnaires, and individualized modules to manage specific mental conditions. Pep-Pal was accessible on a patient’s computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone and offered nine comprehensive sessions such as “Strategies for Maintaining Energy and Stamina, Coping with Uncertainty, and Managing Changing Relationships and Communicating Needs.

Caregivers found that Pep-Pal was feasible, easy-to-use, and that the content of the stress management interventions resonated with their allo-HSCT care experiences.  

Moving forward, the team collected feedback from caregivers and found that some modules and activities needed to be more time-sensitive. Regardless of time-sensitivity issues, the team believes that with adjustments and further analysis, Pep-Pal could support stress management for caregivers across other fields of care.

“Feedback from stakeholder groups, focus groups, and individual interviews provided valuable feedback in key areas that was integrated into the development of Pep-Pal with the goal of enhancing dissemination, engagement, acceptability, and usability,” the team concluded.

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