DoD studying clinical effects of brain-injury app

The Department of Defense recently launched a full clinical trial of its mCare mobile app and platform for soldiers with brain injuries, Commander Peter Park, clinical informatics deputy director for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery revealed at the World Congress Leadership Summit on mHealth Thursday morning.

The ambitious goal is to find out if the app actually can improve health outcomes--via fewer headaches or cognitive impairments, improved mental health or better memory--for brain-injury patients, Park told FierceMobileHealthcare. The biggest outcome at issue: Can the app help soldiers remain on active duty? There's no clear answer to that question yet, even from the pilot study, Park admits. Hopefully the clinical trial will deliver more concrete answers on that front.

The mCare program uses secure messaging--not commercial text messaging, Park pointed out--to communicate with patients and their families, provide health reminders to patients and facilitate care coordination among disparate providers in the DoD health system.

The project has been in pilot phase for more than a year, growing from less than 1,000 messages in its early months in 2009 to a total of more than 114,000 messages to date. The pilot made the move to a full clinical trial in April, involving 400 patients separated into a control group and mCare group. Researchers will be collecting data through June 2012, Park said.

One reason the DoD is pushing for a clinical trial of the technology is to determine if the underlying protocols can be extended to other diagnoses and conditions beyond brain injury, Park adds. We'll be following the trial to find out which other healthcare arenas the mCare platform might eventually cover.