Mobile app to enhance patient activation and patient-provider communication in major depressive disorder management: Collaborative, randomized controlled pilot study


Advocate Research Institute


Background: Enhanced patient-provider engagement can improve patient health outcomes in chronic conditions, including major depressive disorder (MDD).

Objective: We evaluated the impact of a digitally enabled care mobile app, Pathway, designed to improve MDD patient-provider engagement. Patients used a mobile interface to assess treatment progress and share this information with primary care providers (PCPs).

Methods: In this 52-week, real-world effectiveness and feasibility study conducted in primary care clinics, 40 patients with MDD who were recently prescribed antidepressant monotherapy were randomized to use a mobile app with usual care (20/40, 50%) or usual care alone (20/40, 50%). Patients in the app arm engaged with the app daily for 18 weeks; a report was generated at 6-week intervals and shared with the PCPs to facilitate shared treatment decision-making discussions. The patients discontinued the app at week 18 and were followed through year 1. Coprimary outcome measures, assessed via research visits, included change from baseline in the 13-item Patient Activation Measure (PAM-13) and 7-item Patient-Provider Engagement Scale scores at week 18. Additional outcome measures included depression severity (9-item Patient Health Questionnaire [PHQ-9]) and cognitive symptoms (5-item Perceived Deficits Questionnaire-Depression).

Results: All 37 patients (app arm: n=18, 49%; usual care arm: n=19, 51%) who completed the 18-week follow-up period (n=31, 84% female, mean age 36, SD 11.3 years) had moderate to moderately severe depression. Improvements in PAM-13 and PHQ-9 scores were observed in both arms. Increases in PAM-13 scores from baseline to 18 weeks were numerically greater in the app arm than in the usual care arm (mean 10.5, SD 13.2 vs mean 8.8, SD 9.4; P=.65). At 52 weeks, differences in PAM-13 scores from baseline demonstrated significantly greater improvements in the app arm than in the usual care arm (mean 20.2, SD 17.7 vs mean 1.6, SD 14.2; P=.04). Compared with baseline, PHQ-9 scores decreased in both the app arm and the usual care arm at 18 weeks (mean 7.8, SD 7.2 vs mean 7.0, SD 6.5; P=.73) and 52 weeks (mean 9.5, SD 4.0 vs mean 4.7, SD 6.0; P=.07). Improvements in 7-item Patient-Provider Engagement Scale and WHO-5 scores were observed in both arms at 18 weeks and were sustained through 52 weeks in the app arm. Improvements in WHO-5 scores at 52 weeks were significantly greater in the app arm than in the usual care arm (41.5 vs 20.0; P=.02).

Conclusions: Patients with MDD will engage with a mobile app designed to track treatment and disease progression. PCPs will use the data generated as part of their assessment to inform clinical care. The study results suggest that an app-enabled clinical care pathway may enhance patient activation and benefit MDD management.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03242213; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03242213.

Document Type


PubMed ID