A Mobile App to Support Parents Making Child Mental Health Decisions: Protocol for a Feasibility Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

JMIR Res Protoc. 2019 Aug 14;8(8):e14571. doi: 10.2196/14571.


Background: Shared decision making (SDM) is recognized as a person-centered approach to improving health care quality and outcomes. Few digital interventions to improve SDM have been tested in child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) settings. One such intervention is Power Up, a mobile phone app for young people (YP), which has shown some evidence of promise that YP who received Power Up reported greater levels of SDM. However, even though parents play a critical role in CAMH care and treatment, they often feel excluded from services.

Objective: This protocol is for a pilot trial to determine the feasibility of a large-scale randomized trial to develop and evaluate a Web app called Power Up for Parents (PUfP) to support parents and promote involvement in CAMH decisions.

Methods: A 2-stage process, consisting of the development stage and pilot-testing stage of the initial PUfP prototype, will be conducted. At the development stage, a qualitative study with parents and clinicians will be conducted. The interviews will aim to capture the experience of making CAMH decisions, preferences for involvement in SDM, and determine situations within which PUfP can be useful. At the pilot-testing stage, up to 90 parents and their clinicians will be invited to participate in the testing of the prototype. Parents will be randomly allocated to receive the intervention or be part of the control group. This study design will allow us to assess the acceptability and usefulness of PUfP in addition to examining the feasibility of a prospective randomized trial. Clinicians' perceptions of the prototype and how it has influenced parents' involvement in SDM will also be examined.

Results: Recruitment began in January 2019 and is scheduled to last for 10 months. Interviews and baseline data collection are currently in progress. To date, 11 CAMH sites have been recruited to take part in the study. It is anticipated that data collection will be completed by October 2019.

Conclusions: The lack of parents' involvement in CAMH care and treatment can lead to higher rates of dropout from care and lower adherence to therapeutic interventions. There are significant benefits to be gained globally if digital SDM interventions are adopted by parents and shown to be successful in CAMH settings.

Trial registration: ISRCTN Registry ISRCTN39238984; http://www.isrctn.com/ISRCTN39238984.

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/14571.

Keywords: adolescent; child; mental health; parents; shared decision making; technology.