What are digital health programs?
What are digital health programs?
Some digital health programs focus on promoting health and wellbeing and preventing ill health, while others may deliver early intervention and mental health treatment. There are numerous digital health programs available, covering a range of mental and physical health concerns, and thus increasing individual healthcare management choices.
Digital health programs are delivered via the internet on computer and can be mobile and tablet-enabled. They typically involve working through several interactive intervention modules, over a period of time. More serious development and evaluation of digital mental health treatment programs commenced in late 1990’s and today, they as a collective, enjoy a substantial evidence base regarding their effectiveness. Although mobile apps (mHealth) are quite popular, the evidence base for mental health apps is still lacking. Mobile apps are often very convenient tools but they often lack the depth of information required, and therefore at this point, most are considered as adjunctive at best.
Evidence-base and broad types of digital health programs
Although the evidence base for digital mental health treatment programs is strong, these programs do vary considerably in terms of what they offer. It is important to note that digital health programs can be undertaken with therapist-assistance / human support and without assistance (self-help) and this can also influence program outcome.
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Research around the effectiveness of digital health programs has been extremely positive. Hundreds of studies can be found that attest to the efficacy of digital health programs that treat mental ill health, especially generalised anxiety (worry), panic, social anxiety, post traumatic stress symptoms, and depression. There are also studies that support the effectiveness of promoting health and wellbeing over the internet, as well as assisting people with the management of a physical health condition.
- For a list of peer reviewed papers in the area of digital health interventions, click here.
- You can also visit the ANU’s Centre for Mental Health Research BEACON resource – a portal to online applications for mental and physical health conditions (digital health programs have been independently reviewed, evaluated and rated) by clicking here.
+ Self Help Digital Programs
Self-help (self-guided, automated, etc) digital health programs are typically structured digital health interventions that don’t include direct human assistance. Essentially a person may register for a particular program and then work their way through it without human assistance.
However, some self-help digital health programs provide a type of non-human support, called automated support, which helps to guide the consumer through a particular digital health program via an automatic process. This may include receiving automated emails or SMS in response to things that they do (or don’t) while using the digital health program or scheduling the release of modules and surveys based on a time cycle.
The automation is added to assist the consumer to ‘walk through’ the program with additional guidance and at times, feedback. Automated self-help programs generally help to keep consumers on track and more engaged than pure self-help versions.
+ Therapist Assisted Digital Health Programs
Therapist-assisted or human supported digital health programs are typically self-help digital health intervention that includes some human support while the consumer is working through the program. The frequency of support (daily, weekly, fortnightly, etc) can vary, as well as the communication modality by which the support is provided. Support might occur via secure email, instant messaging sessions, telephone or VOIP, video-chat or face-to-face meetings.
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