Bipolar Tech: Does it support self-management?

on August 24, 2016
Bipolar Tech: Does it support self-management?

Through a number of studies – including the recent Delphi Consensus Consultation study – the CREST.BD team has identified several key self-management strategies helpful for people who have BD. These self-management strategies include ways to maintain balanced mood and prevent the progression of BD symptoms. From this study we have identified seven categories of self-management strategies:

1) Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

2) Ongoing monitoring

3) Relaxation

4) Education

5) Communication with others

6) Planning for and taking action

7) Maintaining hope.

Many Internet (eHealth) and cell phone-based (mHealth) programs for bipolar disorder (BD) provide useful information and tools to help people who have BD live meaningful and successful lives. Right now it’s unclear as to what extent current online and mobile programs actually support self-management strategies that people with BD prefer. We recently did a systematic review to look at these existing online and mobile programs, and to evaluate how well they support the seven self-management categories. Through this review, we found nine eHealth programs and two mHealth programs. After evaluating each program, we concluded the following: The majority of these BD programs support ongoing monitoring, maintaining hope, planning for/taking action, education, and to a lesser extent communicating with others. Unfortunately, few programs supported relaxation and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The eHealth programs reviewed appeared to be more helpful in supporting self-management strategies than mHealth programs.

The results of our review highlight some valuable areas to be considered in the development of future BD self-management programs. First, strategies around relaxation and healthy lifestyle could be valuable inclusions. In an online program or cell phone app, these could be relatively simple to add in. This could include tools and information around the importance of sleep, relaxation, healthy eating, exercise, and reducing the amount of substances such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.

Second, a greater emphasis on communicating with others could help people engage with these programs and provide added benefits to those who participate. While eight of the eleven programs we reviewed included information or tools to encourage communication with others, these technologies could be better used to include discussion forums, chat rooms, or direct messaging.

Finally, eHealth programs seem to support more self-management categories as a whole compared to mHealth programs. To us this suggests eHealth and mHealth programs might serve different purposes and they might be more appealing to different people depending on what they’re looking for. Programs delivered online can be much more in-depth and detailed, while cell-phone programs are generally simpler and more specifically focused.

Existing BD technologies do support self-management, but there is room for improvement and refinement to make sure we’re making the most of the vast capabilities offered by online and mobile technologies.

To learn more about the Delphi study, take a look at this video.

Send your thoughts and comments to Emma on twitter @eglidd. She’d love to hear from you!

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