Published in

JMIR Publications, JMIR Mental Health, 8(9), p. e38934, 2022

DOI: 10.2196/38934



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Clinical Targets and Attitudes Toward Implementing Digital Health Tools for Remote Measurement in Treatment for Depression: Focus Groups With Patients and Clinicians

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Background Remote measurement technologies, such as smartphones and wearable devices, can improve treatment outcomes for depression through enhanced illness characterization and monitoring. However, little is known about digital outcomes that are clinically meaningful to patients and clinicians. Moreover, if these technologies are to be successfully implemented within treatment, stakeholders’ views on the barriers to and facilitators of their implementation in treatment must be considered. Objective This study aims to identify clinically meaningful targets for digital health research in depression and explore attitudes toward their implementation in psychological services. Methods A grounded theory approach was used on qualitative data from 3 focus groups of patients with a current diagnosis of depression and clinicians with >6 months of experience with delivering psychotherapy (N=22). Results Emerging themes on clinical targets fell into the following two main categories: promoters and markers of change. The former are behaviors that participants engage in to promote mental health, and the latter signal a change in mood. These themes were further subdivided into external changes (changes in behavior) or internal changes (changes in thoughts or feelings) and mapped with potential digital sensors. The following six implementation acceptability themes emerged: technology-related factors, information and data management, emotional support, cognitive support, increased self-awareness, and clinical utility. Conclusions The promoters versus markers of change differentiation have implications for a causal model of digital phenotyping in depression, which this paper presents. Internal versus external subdivisions are helpful in determining which factors are more susceptible to being measured by using active versus passive methods. The implications for implementation within psychotherapy are discussed with regard to treatment effectiveness, service provision, and patient and clinician experience.