On-demand mental healthcare organization Ginger today announced the publication of new research in The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) that demonstrates the effectiveness of a virtual, on-demand mental health system in reducing anxiety symptoms. The study found that a virtual, team-based approach comprised of behavioral health coaching and clinical telemental health services is more effective than either modality alone. The published data reveals two key findings:
- For specific individuals, behavioral health coaching services can be just as effective as clinical telemental health services in improving anxiety symptoms.
- The combination of behavioral health coaching and clinical telemental health services can improve anxiety symptoms more effectively than either care modality alone.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions in the U.S., and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the situation. In July 2020, about 35% of U.S. adults reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety. People today urgently need and deserve high-quality mental healthcare that can be quickly deployed at scale; a virtual, team-based care model does just that.Patricia Areán, Ph.D., a professor in the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
The Abundance of Virtual, On-Demand Tools
With nearly one in five U.S. adults living with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019), estimates suggest that only half of the people with mental illnesses receive treatment. Technology has opened a new frontier in mental health support and data collection. Excitement about the vast range of opportunities has led to a burst of app development, with thousands of mental health apps available in iTunes and Android app stores. However, this new digital tool comes with skepticism. In the past, very little industry regulation and very little information on app effectiveness have lead consumers to question which apps they should trust. This distrust exists for any digital health technology, not just mobile applications.
The Effectiveness of Ginger’s Virtual, On-Demand Mental Health System
The observational study of 1,611 individuals is the first to compare anxiety outcomes among individuals engaged in three distinct modalities of care:
- Text-based, behavioral health coaching services.
- Telemental health services (teletherapy and remote medication management).
- And a team-based model comprised of both modalities.
Participants were typically treated for 8-12 weeks, during which their anxiety was assessed using the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) questionnaire upon beginning and throughout treatment. The likelihood of a reduction in anxiety symptoms was highest for individuals in the team-based model: about 60% of individuals in this group experienced a reduction in their anxiety symptoms compared to 50% in the coaching-only and clinical-only cohorts. This increased likelihood of symptom improvement for the collaborative group was consistent across all baseline symptom severity (mild, moderate, severe).
Ginger’s findings in anxiety mirror results from its previous observational study published in JMIR in June 2020, which investigated the effectiveness of its on-demand approach in reducing symptoms of depression. In that study, 1,662 Ginger members – 93.1% of whom engaged in coaching alone or coaching plus clinical services – showed significant decreases in the proportion of individuals who experienced symptoms more than half the time, as assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2).
According to the announcement, behavioral health coaching takes an active, goal-oriented approach to address a wide array of sub-acute challenges, from sleep to mood and relationships. At Ginger, behavioral health coaches are available to provide support 24 hours a day, 365 days per year via text-based chat. Coaching meets the needs of approximately 85-90% of Ginger users, where a licensed therapist or psychiatrist can be added to their care team when a member needs additional support. Recognizing the unique expertise and value of coaching, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced the approval of new Category III Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) Codes for health and wellbeing coaching in January 2020.
Whether you work on the tarmac or write code for software, getting great mental healthcare when you need it is essential – especially in the times in which we live. Our newest published research shows that innovative, highly-scalable modalities of care, such as text-based behavioral health coaching, are effective – especially when delivered in a virtual team-based care model such as Ginger’s on-demand mental health system.Dr. Dana Udall, Chief Clinical Officer at Ginger
In the end, continued research on improving the user experience of, and thus user engagement with, these programs appears vital for the sustainable implementation of digital mental health interventions.
Ginger believes that everyone deserves access to incredible mental healthcare. Its on-demand system brings together behavioral health coaches, therapists, and psychiatrists, who work as a team to deliver personalized care, right through your smartphone. The Ginger app provides members with access to the support they need within seconds, 24/7, 365 days a year. Millions of people have access to Ginger through leading employers, health plans and partners. Ginger has been recognized by The World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer, Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in Healthcare and UCSF’s Digital Health Awards as 2020’s leading Mental Health Company.