Texting may be a more suitable treatment aid for those with mental illness than cellphone apps, a new US study has found.
Researchers from Clemson University in collaboration with scientists from Indiana University and the Centerstone Research Institute surveyed 325 patients currently receiving treatment at community-based outpatient clinics for mental illness to determine their cellphone ownership and usage patterns.
The results showed that cellphone ownership among these mental health patients was comparable with ownership among a nationally representative, non-patient sample, with the exception that more patients than non-patients shared their mobile phones, researchers said.
“Among mental health patients, we found that texting was the most popular feature used and downloading apps was the least popular,” said Kelly Caine, assistant professor in Clemson’s School of Computing.
“The patients often shared phones, which makes providing private, secure messages difficult,” Caine said.
Almost 80 per cent of the patients surveyed used texting and many did not use mobile applications, meaning that texting may be accessible to the majority of patients and may therefore make a more suitable treatment aid.
Furthermore, participants who already were comfortable with texting also reported that they were comfortable with the concept of texting their mental health provider, implying that texting may be an appropriate feature for mobile health (mHealth) interventions.
“By utilising a technology that is readily available and familiar to so many Americans, we see huge potential to improve treatment outcomes and provide patients who currently have only limited access to treatment additional treatment options,” said Caine.
Researchers said that cellphones and other mHealth technologies that are designed considering the ownership, usage patterns and needs of patients have the potential to be successful treatment aids.
The study was published in the journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing.