Depression app claims to give patients a lift

There are a plethora of apps on the market to diagnose depression, identify symptoms, help patients understand their condition, and more. But a new app claims to help patients actually alleviate depression altogether.

It's a bold claim, but a new study published at BioMedCentral.com reports that nearly 74 percent participants who used the new application--dubbed Viary--were "no longer considered to be depressed" after completing the study protocol, according to a story at VentureBeat.

The Viary app was tweaked to provide a depression treatment called behavior activation. It's a process by which the patient and therapist identify activities that are positive for the patient, and then create a matrix within which the patient will be motivated to engage in those activities more often.

Mobile phones were seen as key in delivering motivational or corrective messages to patients because they "are often ubiquitous and are hence present when behaviors occur," the researchers said.

The Viary app regularly prompted users to engage in about 100 positive behaviors, such as cooking a meal or increasing social contact and participation. Participants using the Viary app started out with an average score of 25 on the Beck Depression Inventory or BDI-II scale--meaning they were at least moderately depressed--but ended with an improved average score of 13 at the study's conclusion.

Interestingly, the study didn't muddy the waters with health coaching or counseling--the only contact patients had with a clinician was a weekly email to psychology students about their symptoms and feelings for that week. The study strictly targeted the effects of the application.

Other apps that could complement the Viary protocol include one being developed by researchers at Northwestern University that tracks patient mobility, location, and other factors to identify possible triggers for depressive symptoms in individual patients.

The app, while initially customized for the depression trial, is actually condition-agnostic, according to VentureBeat. Company officials tell VB they are working on a new app to allow consumers track how their daytime behaviors affect their nighttime sleep patterns.

To learn more:
- read the VentureBeat story
- here's the study

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