The use of innovative technologies in mental health care has the potential to improve system efficiency, enhance quality of care, and increase patient engagement. The Mental Health Engagement Network (MHEN) project developed, delivered, and evaluated an interactive Web-based personal health record, the Lawson SMART Record (LSR), to assist mental health clients in managing their care and connecting with their care providers. This paper presents a secondary analysis of data collected in the MHEN project regarding clients’ perceptions of technology and the use of these technologies in their care.
We aimed to answer six questions: (1) What is the level of comfort with technology within a sample of individuals experiencing mood or psychotic disorders? (2) How easy to use and helpful are the MHEN technologies from the perspective of individuals experiencing a mental illness? (3) Are there differences in how helpful or useful individuals find the smartphone compared to the LSR? (4) Are there specific functions of MHEN technologies (eg, reminders for medications or appointments) that are more valued than others? (5) What are the other ways that individuals are using MHEN technologies in their daily lives? (6) How likely are individuals to be able to retain and maintain their smartphone?
Mental health clients aged 18-80 (N=400) and diagnosed with a mood or psychotic disorder were provided with a smartphone (iPhone 4S) and participating care providers (n=52) were provided with a tablet (iPad) in order to access and engage with the LSR. A delayed implementation design with mixed methods was used. Survey and interview data were collected over the course of 18 months through semistructured interviews conducted by experienced research assistants every 6 months post-implementation of the intervention. Paired t tests were used to determine differences between 6 and 12-month data for perceptions of the MHEN technologies. A paired t test was used to examine whether differences existed between perceptions of the smartphone and the LSR at 12 months post-implementation.
Due to dropout or loss of contact, 394 out of 400 individuals completed the study. At the end of the study, 52 devices were lost or unusable. Prior to the intervention, participants reported being comfortable using technology. Perceptions of the MHEN technologies and their functions were generally positive. Positive perceptions of the smartphone increased over time (P=.002), while positive perceptions of the LSR decreased over time (P<.001).
Quantitative and qualitative findings from this analysis demonstrated that these technologies positively impacted the lives of individuals experiencing severe mental illnesses and dispeled some of the myths regarding retention of technology among marginalized populations. This secondary analysis supported the acceptability of using mental health technologies within this population and provided considerations for future development.
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01473550; http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01473550 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6SLNcoKb8).