Evaluating the promise of health IT to enhance/expand the reach of mental health services.

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Jun 26, 2013

OBJECTIVE: A growing number of health information technologies (HIT) are being developed and tested to address mental health conditions. HIT includes Internet and smartphone programs or apps, text messaging protocols and telepsychiatry. We reviewed the promise and evidence that HIT can expand access to mental health care and reduce disparities in use of services across groups in need.

CONCLUSIONS: Limited reach of mental health services is a pervasive problem in the United States, and solving it will require innovations that enable us to extend our clinical reach into underserved populations without significantly expanding our workforce. In theory, HIT can extend access to mental health care in several ways: by enhancing the reach to priority populations, addressing system capacity issues, supporting training, improving clinical decision making, lowering the "consumer's threshold" for treatment, delivering preventive mental health services, speeding innovation and adoption and reducing cost barriers to treatment. At present, evidence is limited, and research is needed, focusing on consumer engagement strategies, the benefits and harms of HIT for the therapeutic relationship and the comparative effectiveness of various HIT alternatives.

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