Texting better than apps for helping mental health patients

Mental health patients may benefit more from texting their doctors rather than using apps, a new study led by researchers from Clemson University in South Carolina reveals.

For the study, researchers surveyed 325 patients currently receiving treatment for mental illness to find out their mobile phone usage. They found that although mental health patients are just as likely to own a mobile phone, they are also much more likely to share devices, reports medicaldaily.com. Texting is the most popular feature used by mental health patients, whereas downloading apps was the least popular.

Moreover, patients who are already comfortable with texting also said they would not mind contacting their mental health provider by SMS, reports eurekalert.org. Therefore, texting is not only better than apps because the majority of patients have access to it, but because this form of communication could be suitable for mobile health interventions.

Kelly Caine, assistant professor in Clemson’s School of Computing, added that it is difficult to send private and secure messages to patients, because of the fact they tend to share phones.

“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 additional treatment options,” she explained.

“When designed from a patient-centred perspective, such as understanding cell phone sharing habits, these technologies have the potential to be useful and usable to the largest number of patients.”

A texting service for mental health patients could benefit those in the UK too, as 93 per cent of the population owns a mobile phone, according to figures from Ofcom.