INPUT HEALTH – Parkwood Pilots Mobile App for Youth Mental Health Patients

In a city where young people looking for mental health care have been stranded in hallways waiting for beds and where programs to help youth in particular are in short supply, Parkwood Institute is testing out a new mobile app researchers hope will improve access to service.

The St. Joseph’s Health Care London hospital is launching a new tele-support pilot project to connect youth in London and area to their mental health professionals. The so-called Teleprom-Y mobile program will let patients and their health care team talk via secure video link, message back and forth, schedule in-person appointments and allows doctors and nurses to send questionnaires and advice to patients.

“Mental health services are all about relationships,” said Cheryl Forchuk, the study’s lead investigator and research chair at Lawson Health Research Institute, the research arm of London Health Science Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “In our previous work with youth, they talked about how they really wanted to see the technology they use integrated into the care they’re receiving. This is really what our goal has been.”

The study will include 120 people who are 16 to 25 years old and living with symptoms of anxiety or depression. Research participants must already be receiving outpatient care from hospital-based mental health programs at London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care London and Woodstock General Hospital or community-based services from other organizations including Youth Opportunities Unlimited.

Researchers want to assess if the mobile program improves access for patients, effectively monitors mood and behaviour changes and boosts connectivity between patients and their doctors. The two-year study also will evaluate whether the mobile app is well-received by the young patients who use it and whether it reduces the number youth mental health hospitalizations and outpatient visits.

“The evaluation is essential. There’s too much (mental health-related) smart technology out there these days that no one is evaluating,” Forchuk said. “The innovation is very important, the target population is very important, but the evaluation is also extremely important.”

If the research project is successful, the app could be integrated into other youth mental health care settings, Forchuk said.

Mental health workers will be trained on how to use the computer version of the software. They can use it to check in with patients and respond to concerns patients are raising through the mobile app. The computer-facilitated care will be something they continue alongside their other clinical duties, Forchuk said.

The data patients input into the app – including self-reported moods and symptoms – become part of the patient’s medical record their mental health workers can access and review.

The pilot project received $395,000 from the province’s health technologies fund and another $495,000 in in-kind contributions from numerous partner agencies. The mobile software is created by health care technology firm InputHealth, a company started by two doctors who are still practicing medicine.

InputHealth chief medical officer Puneet Seth said the app was designed with all the rigour, security and privacy considerations health care software demands, but also includes features familiar to tech-savvy youth.

“These are things that patients, the public, youth are already accustomed to doing; messaging, video conferencing, sharing information, being able to request appointments online, much like you would request access to a vehicle or order from a restaurant,” he said. “These sorts of technologies are already around, they’re a mainstay, but they’ve remained outside of the options that people have when it comes to health care.”

Teleprom-Y pilot project

  • Mobile app connects youth patients with their mental health care workers
  • Research project by St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Parkwood Institute, London Health Sciences Centre, Woodstock General Hospital and other community partners
  • Two-year project to study 120 youth  16 to 25 years old receiving treatment for depression or anxiety
  • Secure mobile software allows patients to tele-conference with their doctors, message back and forth and set up in-person appointments.
  • Project received $395,000 from the province’s Health Technologies Fund and another $495,000 in in-kind contributions from partner organizations.

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