Digital Mental Health Intervention Plus Usual Care Compared With Usual Care Only and Usual Care Plus In-Person Psychological Counseling for Orthopedic Patients With Symptoms of Depression or Anxiety: Cohort Study

Ashwin J. Leo, Matthew J. Schuelke, Devyani M. Hunt, J. Philip Miller, Patricia A. Areán, Abby L. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Depression and anxiety frequently coexist with chronic musculoskeletal pain and can negatively impact patients' responses to standard orthopedic treatments. Nevertheless, mental health is not routinely addressed in the orthopedic care setting. If effective, a digital mental health intervention may be a feasible and scalable method of addressing mental health in an orthopedic setting. Objective: We aimed to compare 2-month changes in mental and physical health between orthopedic patients who received a digital mental health intervention in addition to usual orthopedic care, those who received usual orthopedic care only (without a specific mental health intervention), and those who received in-person care with a psychologist as part of their orthopedic treatment plan. Methods: In this single-center retrospective cohort study involving ancillary analysis of a pilot feasibility study, 2-month self-reported health changes were compared between a cohort of orthopedic patients who received access to a digital mental health intervention (Wysa) and 2 convenience sample comparison cohorts (patients who received usual orthopedic care without a specific mental health intervention and patients who received in-person care with a psychologist as part of their orthopedic treatment plan). All patients were 18 years or older and reported elevated symptoms of depression or anxiety at an orthopedic clinic visit (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System [PROMIS] Depression or Anxiety score ≥55). The digital intervention was a multi-component mobile app that used chatbot technology and text-based access to human counselors to provide cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness training, and sleep tools, among other features, with an emphasis on behavioral activation and pain acceptance. Outcomes of interest were between-cohort differences in the 2-month longitudinal changes in PROMIS Depression and Anxiety scores (primary outcomes) and PROMIS Pain Interference and Physical Function scores (secondary outcomes). Results: Among 153 patients (mean age 55, SD 15 years; 128 [83.7%] female; 51 patients per cohort), patients who received the digital mental health intervention showed clinically meaningful improvements at the 2-month follow-up for all PROMIS measures (mean longitudinal improvement 2.8-3.7 points; P≤02). After controlling for age and BMI, the improvements in PROMIS Depression, Pain Interference, and Physical Function were meaningfully greater than longitudinal changes shown by patients who received usual orthopedic care (mean between-group difference 2.6-4.8 points; P≤04). Improvements in PROMIS Physical Function were also meaningfully greater than longitudinal changes shown by patients who received in-person psychological counseling (mean between-group difference 2.4 points; P=.04). Conclusions: Patients who received a digital mental health intervention as part of orthopedic care reported greater 2-month mean improvements in depression, pain interference, and physical function than patients who received usual orthopedic care. They also reported a greater mean improvement in physical function and comparable improvements in depression, anxiety, and pain interference compared with orthopedic patients who received in-person psychological counseling.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere36203
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Volume6
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2022

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • chronic pain
  • depression
  • digital health
  • mental health
  • musculoskeletal
  • orthopedic

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