According to researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, an app can help people with serious mental illness as effectively as a clinic-based group intervention.
Researchers examined an app called FOCUS. Users suffered from major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.
The app was accessible around the clock and included on-demand digital interventions and self-assessments. A support specialist trained patients on using the app, conducted weekly phone check-ins, and provided technical troubleshooting.
A control group received guided activities and weekly 90-minute sessions in a clinic-based group setting.
After three months, the cost for group-based intervention was $1,956 per patient, while the cost for FOCUS was $1,011 per person.
Apps have yet to be adopted in a meaningful way by U.S. health care systems, the researchers said, because these apps need payment and reimbursement models before they can be broadly adopted.
“If there were billing codes, you could create new forms of healthcare that cost half of what it would cost in a clinic,” said Dror Ben-Zeev, the study’s lead author, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and Behavioral Research In Technology and Engineering Center director.
Mobile health apps for mental health are being integrated into Australian and European health care systems.