mHealth Technology Screens Pregnant Women for Depression

March 23, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Tablets that incorporate mobile health (mHealth) technology may help health care professionals screen pregnant patients for depression.

Tablets that incorporate mobile health (mHealth) technology may help health care professionals screen pregnant patients for depression.

Each year, more than 500,000 women experience perinatal mental health disorder symptoms, such as anxiety, hopelessness, desolation, and fatigue. In Illinois, the Perinatal Mental Health Disorders Prevention and Treatment Act passed in 2008 requires screenings for such symptoms in pregnant women.

A public health clinic in Illinois called the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will soon conduct those screenings using mHealth technology, according to a press release.

A recent study of mHealth technology that focused on attitudes of staff at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District considered how tablets could be used to conduct perinatal depression screenings among low-income women. The researchers noted that previous studies had not considered staff attitudes toward the use of this technology.

The study authors separated staff members into 4 focus groups, and an interview guide was used to determine staff perceptions related to the depression screening via the tablets.

The staff saw 3 main benefits of mHealth: helping with literacy and language barriers, reducing redundancy and errors, and providing more privacy for patients. Previous research has also shown that health care providers also appreciate mHealth technology for its reliability and accessibility when transportation is difficult for the patient.

Two negatives that the staff members highlighted were increased network issues and fears that the devices might be lost, stolen, or broken.

Before implementing mHealth tablet technology for depression screening in a public health clinic, it is important to address the concerns of staff members to make the transition more effective,” the study authors noted.

Tablets used in the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will include the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which poses 10 questions. The tablets will offer the questions in numerous languages, and those struggling with literacy will be able to hear an audio version.