Background: GPs detect at best 50c of mental health problems in young people. Barriers to detecting mental health problems include lack of screening tools, limited appointment times and young people's reluctance to report mental health symptoms to GPs. The mobiletype program is a mobile phone mental health assessment and management application which monitors mood, stress and everyday activities then transmits this information to general practitioners (GPs) via a secure website in summary format for medical review. The current aims were to examine: (i) mobiletype as a clinical assistance tool, ii) doctor-patient rapport and, iii) pathways to care.
Methods: We conducted a randomised controlled trial in primary care with patients aged 14 to 24 years recruited from rural and metropolitan general practices. GPs identified and referred eligible participants (those with mild or more mental health concerns) who were randomly assigned to either the intervention group (where mood, stress and daily activities were monitored) or the attention-comparison group (where only daily activities were monitored). Both groups self-monitored for 2 to 4 weeks and reviewed the monitoring data with their GP. GPs, participants and researchers were blind to group allocation at randomisation. GPs assessed the mobiletype program as a clinical assistant tool. Doctor-patient rapport was assessed using the General Practice Assessment Questionnaire Communication and Enablement subscales, and the Trust in Physician Scale (TPS). Pathways to care was measured using The Party Project's Exit Interview.
Results: Of the 163 participants assessed for eligibility, 118 were randomised and 114 participants were included in analyses (intervention n = 68, attention-comparison n = 46). T-tests showed that the intervention program increased understanding of patient mental health, assisted in decisions about medication/referral and helped in diagnosis when compared to the attention-comparison program. Mixed model analysis showed no differences in GP-patient rapport nor in pathways to care.
Conclusions: We conducted the first RCT of a mobile phone application in the mental health assessment and management of youth mental health in primary care. This study suggests that mobiletype has much to offer GPs in the often difficult and time-consuming task of assessment and management of youth mental health problems in primary care.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00794222.