Researchers at UCLA are looking into ways how modern mHealth tools can help people with behavioral health disorders, such as those fighting with gambling, smoking and alcohol.
Ardeshir Rahman, a co-investigator in UCLA's Behavioral Technologies Lab, calls the process "therapy 2.0" in which a smartphone app can be used between once-weekly visits to a doctor's office or group session.
Researchers were surprised at how behaviors can be influenced so quickly by the use of interventions.As part of what researchers are saying is the first-ever clinical behavioral mHealth clinical trial at UCLA, the project involves having providers prescribe a smartphone app developed at UCLA to their patients. The app offers information on sponsors, treatments and techniques to deal with urges, all while collecting and analyzing user data to help providers better understand the patterns around addiction. This data is then sent to a doctor or a group session therapist for further analysis.
The initial study, which involves 8-10 patients, will be completed in June, and thus far proven successful. After a few weeks, Rahman said, researchers were surprised at how behaviors can be influenced so quickly by the use of interventions – and how those changes can be tracked in real time.
"Never mind between week one and week ten – we're seeing changes on a week-to-week basis," he said.
Researchers chose gambling as the first test case because they figured that group would be the most receptive to an mHealth-based therapy. As the studies progress, they'll be looking to expand the reach and target other conditions, as well. What's more, they may customize apps for specific users.
"This isn't a passive platform," Rahman said.