The Use of Technology in the Clinical Care of Depression

An Evidence Map

Published in: The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Volume 79, Number 5 (September/October 2018). doi:10.4088/JCP.18r12118

Posted on RAND.org on August 22, 2018

by Eric Apaydin, Alicia Ruelaz Maher, Laura Raaen, Sangita M. Baxi, Aneesa Motala, Roberta M. Shanman, Susanne Hempel

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Objective

Depression is a highly prevalent clinical condition. The use of technologies in the clinical care of depressive disorders may increase the reach of clinical services for these disorders and support more comprehensive treatment. The objective of this evidence map is to provide an overview of the use of technology in the clinical care of depression.

Data Sources

We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, and the Web of Science from inception to June 2017 to identify published randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Study Selection

Two reviewers used predetermined eligibility criteria to review 4,062 records and include 161 RCTs that met our inclusion criteria. We include studies evaluating any type of treatment-related technology in the clinical care of depression.

Data Extraction

We extracted data on sample sizes, the type of technology examined, the function of that technology, the effectiveness of the technology, and publication year.

Results

Out of 161 RCTs, we found the greatest amount of research for psychotherapy by computer (51 RCTs). The majority of studies were published after 2012 (94 RCTs; 58%). Few published studies involved videoconferences or smartphones, or provider feedback or auto-reminders. 145 studies (90%) reported that the intervention had a positive outcome of symptom improvement compared to baseline.

Conclusions

This evidence map provides a broad overview of the existing research evaluating technology in depression care. Computer applications are still most common. Almost all applications yield symptom improvement. More information is needed to evaluate the role of technology in clinical care.

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