Digital Tools to Support Care Coordination for People with Depression
Adaptation of a digital mental health intervention has the potential to improve the coordination of and access to mental health services in ambulatory care settings.
Coordinating scarce mental health services to improve depression care
Care coordinators are typically nurses or social workers who provide guidance and resources to patients who have difficulty managing their healthcare. Unfortunately, care coordinators often struggle to find mental health services—especially for depression management—as resources are limited, waitlists for services are long, and stigmas prevent patients from asking for help.
Technology helping care managers to manage patients’ mental health
As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Emily Lattie is well aware of how important care coordination services are to patients who have acute or chronic health conditions along with depression. To overcome challenges supporting patients, she and her Northwestern University based team are adapting and implementing a digital mental health intervention that is packaged within a patient management system for depression to increase access to and improve coordination of mental health services in ambulatory care coordination.
The enhanced system, referred to as a technology-enabled service (TES), will include the IntelliCare platform, which includes a patient-facing app targeting specific psychological strategies, and a care coordination dashboard. The adaptation of the IntelliCare technology, service protocols, and development of implementation strategies will result in a TES that helps patients develop self management skills and provides care managers with information and tools to manage the patient’s mental health, thereby improving healthcare quality and patient outcomes.
“We know that stress from health conditions affects people’s mental health and their quality of life. We also know that having poor mental health or a lot of stress makes it a lot more challenging to manage physical health conditions. So people often wind up in this unfortunately challenging cycle. By providing training support services to professionals like care coordinators, who work with folks who often experience challenges, we’re able to find another entry point to help people.”
- Dr. Emily Lattie
Increasing access to mental health care
The team will study how the TES (1) increases access to care for depression for patients in four teams implementing the intervention, and (2) impacts depression severity. It will also develop an implementation guide to support replication and sustainability in other healthcare systems. As Dr. Lattie noted, “While this research was proposed before the COVID-19 pandemic, this work has become more timely than ever as we’ve been having an increasing mental health crisis on our hands in the United States.”