Researchers Study Effectiveness of Moble Apps for Mentally Ill

Certain phone applications even help us count calories or remind us to take our medications.

Now, UC researchers in the department of family and community medicine have been awarded a $24,547 grant from the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Governmental Resource Center to study the effectiveness of mobile health devices for Medicaid recipients with severe mental illness.

Research Professor Charles Doarn and Research Assistant Professor Joshua Magee, PhD, will identify and evaluate the mobile applications available to this subgroup of patients to assess their feasibility and use, eventually hoping to gain funding for a larger study to determine which are most beneficial.

“Mobility in medicine is not a new or recent phenomenon; however, it has only been recently that the application and utilization of cellular phones and mobile devices has taken off and has provided a unique opportunity for health care and access to knowledge available at our fingertips,” says Doarn, who is the principal investigator on the study.

“Since we have experienced a worldwide adoption and integration of mobile phones in daily life, there has been a rapidly expanding market for applications in health, and research has already demonstrated the utility of mobile technology in psychiatry and psychology in the treatment of disease.”

He continues that a current assessment has shown that there may be more than 4,000 applications for mental health for use on the iPhone and that Google searches of key terms like “telemental health and cell phones’’ yield over 16,000 results.

“It is clear that a significant effort is underway to develop, adapt, adopt and integrate simple tools in a cost-effective manner for the entire continuum of health care, and mobile health adds value to mental health patients as these tools translate services to patients’ everyday lives in appealing, accessible and personalized ways, regardless of their location,” he says. “In this study, we hope to find which tools work best and determine the cost-effectiveness of their use with hopes of better managing their illness and saving the health care system money.”

Doarn says his team will review databases of current applications throughout the state of Ohio and existing scientific literature to find out what does and does not work for patients. He says the report will even be as detailed to determine which tools are being used in specific counties to determine what is beneficial—and cost-effective in terms of lost productivity and unnecessary travel costs—for different populations within the state. 

“After collecting this data, we will discuss various platforms and how they can be integrated into other public health concerns so that communities across all 88 counties in Ohio are involved and collaborating,” he says. “This is just one piece in the whole telemedicine spectrum, and we need to think about the way medicine will change with these smart systems.”

Media Contact:     Katie Pence, 513-558-4561