Vaneeta Sandhu, PsyD
The number of articles, presentations, trainings, workshops, and other professional activities related to technology in health care has exponentially increased in just the past five years. With many hospitals and medical settings adopting electronic health records (EHRs), there is increasing demand for health psychologists to navigate digital technologies. In addition to record-keeping functions, these technologies may help psychologists collect patient outcome data and facilitate treatment.
If you work in a medical setting, you are most likely already working with an EHR. The transition to electronic records can be chaotic, but like any new behavior, as we continue to make it a part of everyday routine, our usage becomes habit. The benefits of an EHR include access to real-time data about patient care from other providers, the ability to collect and analyze outcome data, a reliable means of communication with other providers, and ease of storage and retrieval of records. If you are privileged enough to interact with an EHR that can be customized, know that front-loading the work to customize the EHR will pay off in the long term. It is worthwhile to take the time to give input to the team of developers, either directly or through an individual who can advocate on your behalf. The benefits of using an EHR can also be extended to the use of tablets and mobile apps as part of your practice.
If you have not already integrated technology into your practice, it can seem like a daunting task at first. Given that you are likely already using any kind of app on your smartphone, you know how easily the checking behavior can develop into a habit. The move to establish these habits into a productive realm for healthcare is the aim of many digital behavioral health apps for both patients and clinicians.
The following is a list of mobile health apps that were recommended from fellow members of the Society for Health Psychology:
- 20 Minute Eating ($0.99; iOS; mindful eating)
- Baritastic (free; iOS and Android; food/exercise/weight loss for bariatric patients; http://www.baritastic.com/)
- Breathe2Relax (free; iOS and Android; stress management; http://t2health.dcoe.mil/apps/breathe2relax)
- Calm (free; iOS and Android; guided meditations; http://www.calm.com/)
- CBT-I Coach (free; iOS and Android; improve insomnia; http://t2health.dcoe.mil/apps/CBT-i)
- iHeadache ($6.99; iOS; track information related to headaches; http://www.iheadache.com/)
- Mindfulness Coach (free; iOS; practice mindfulness; http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/materials/apps/mobileapp_mindfulness_coach.asp)
- MindShift (free; iOS and Android; for teens and young adults managing anxiety; http://www.anxietybc.com/resources/mindshift-app)
- Moving Forward (free; iOS; teaches problem solving skills; https://mobile.va.gov/app/moving-forward)
- PTSD Coach (free; iOS and Android; manage trauma symptoms; http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/materials/apps/PTSDCoach.asp and http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/stay-connected/mobile-app/ptsd-coach-canada)
- SBIRT (free; iOS and Android; screening for substance use; http://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/SBIRT)
- WebMD Pain Coach (free; iOS and Android; manage chronic pain symptoms; http://www.webmd.com/webmdpaincoachapp)
Start with an app that has an easy interface and very few functions; for example, the Calm app listed above is a relatively simple app to navigate. It is helpful to become familiar with an app before introducing them to patients, as you will then know how to most effectively use them! In particular, you will know how the patient can incorporate the use of the app in their daily routine, such as a tracking app, which may progress treatment further and allow the patient to build self-efficacy.
Finally, the collection of real-time data can be helpful in communicating with other members of the care team about the status of your patient. When discussing a patient in grand rounds or case conferences, it can be powerful to demonstrate the progress of their care with visual representations on an app. Further, when other members of the interdisciplinary team meet with the patient, they can be encouraged to check in with the patient regarding their use of the app at home and in their everyday life.
Since there is a range of technology available for use, take your time and be patient with your own learning curve. The use of apps and other technology in health care will only continue to increase; psychologists using them will become necessary in the near future. Consider these to be new tools in your expanding toolbox!
Editor’s note: After the summer issue, Dr. Sandhu will be “signing off”! We are looking for a new ECP member of SfHP to continue to report on ECP-related news and issues beginning in Fall 2016. Please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be considered for this role.