Benefit Your Patients‒Add Mobile Tools to Your Practice

In a previous Mobile Health blog, T2’s usability expert Jenn June described how both civilian and military health providers are beginning to embrace mobile technologies to deliver evidence-based psychological health treatment. However, adoption rates remain slow, despite patient requests.

If you are a clinician, are you currently integrating mobile health into your clinical care? If so, how do you address questions regarding security, privacy and ethical issues? Do you feel confident in your understanding of mobile health policies in clinical care? Or—if you’re a clinician and have not begun integrating mobile health into your practice, why not?

At T2, we surveyed 117 military clinicians over the past year to better understand the reasons they haven’t begun incorporating psychological health technology into their clinical practice. The top reasons were:

  • Don’t know how
  • Unclear about policies regarding their use
  • Afraid of potential privacy and security issues

Interestingly, the survey also showed what issues were not preventing the integration of mobile health tools:

  • Employer restrictions
  • Lack of employer support
  • Don’t think they’ll work

In fact, exactly zero percent of the 117 clinicians surveyed reported any of these last three reasons as a problem. So what can we take away from this? We know patients want mobile health, clinicians are eager to integrate mobile health, clinicians feel their organizations support mobile health, and they believe that it brings value to clinical care. So what is the big missing piece?

It seems to be that clinicians don’t feel adequately trained in how to use mobile tools with their patients. Without proper guidance, clinicians are just “winging it”, which is a big problem—when you integrate these products into clinical care, there are many security/privacy, clinical and ethical issues for which providers need to be prepared to respond.

No standardized competency-based curriculum for military (or civilian) providers appeared to exist, so our education and training group at T2 developed a comprehensive program for military providers on best practices regarding the safe and ethical integration of mobile and Web technologies into clinical care. We spent the last two years creating and testing training workshops, which are currently taught in person by T2 psychologists. The course covers the evidence base supporting technology tools, and provides information on the ethical, cultural and privacy/security issues with the use of technology in clinical practice. With a hands-on, practical approach, clinicians leave the workshops feeling competent to immediately begin using mobile tools in their clinical practice.

Currently, 261 military providers have successfully completed this training, and surveys of participants showed that:

  • 91 percent reported that they will use the skills learned in their professional practice
  • 91 percent reported gaining information and skills that would help them do their job better
  • 87 percent reported that the information and skills gained enhanced their professional expertise
  • 86 percent reported that information and skills gained from the training would improve patient outcomes

Historically, the military has provided advancements in technology and clinical care before general adoption in the civilian sector. By being the first to develop and provide comprehensive training in integrating mobile psychological health tools into clinical care, T2 is continuing this tradition. If you are interested in attending one of our 2016 training workshops located in several places around the country (free for military providers, with continuing education credits available), please contact us.

Christina Armstrong, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and the Program Lead for the Education & Training Program at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Read other posts by Dr. Christina Armstrong