Is this really evidence-based?

Size up the science behind mental health solutions with these 3 questions

Most digital-first mental health solutions claim to be evidence-based, but a very small percentage have strong science to back them up. While research published in the Lancet and PLOS Digital Health demonstrate that digital interventions have the potential to effectively diminish the symptoms of mental conditions (such as depression), it’s estimated that less than 3% of solutions have the evidence to back them up.

So how can organisations committed to boosting employee wellbeing ensure the solutions they’re using (or plan to use) have a solid evidence base? They can start by asking the following questions.

3 questions to ask about digital-first mental health solutions and evidence-base

1. Do you trust the team behind this solution?

As is so often the case, the experts working behind the scenes are key. When evaluating a current mental health solution or vetting a new provider, check into exactly who is creating, curating and evaluating content and services. Look also for long-term collaborations with leading educational, healthcare and industry institutions, qualified subject matter experts and last but not least, a scientific advisory board.

2. Do you trust the scientific frameworks used?

Evidence-based means applying the best available, valid and relevant research findings. Too many mental health solutions are severely limited in the techniques and frameworks employed—this limits their ability to address the many elements of mental wellbeing in turn. Well-rounded solutions with options for the broadest cohort of employees possible are based on multiple existing science-based, well-established frameworks and include a wide range of activities and modalities. Techniques used should draw from clinically validated therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Positive Psychology, and Mindfulness.

3. Do you trust how solutions are evaluated?

Asking about a solution’s clinical trials and expert reviews will serve as a protection against false claims and help ensure proof of concept. While paid pilots are certainly better than no data at all, the gold standard to look for in testing is clinical trials, specifically, randomised controlled trials (RCTs). This sort of testing is a clear indicator of a solution’s effectiveness as it shows the results of a specific intervention compared to a control group (that does not receive the same solution). One way to quality-check an RCT is whether or not it’s been included in a peer-reviewed scientific publication as well as the credibility and renown of that publication. Another important measure of quality evidence-base are evaluations by expert reviewers such as ORCHA (the reviewer used by NHSX and NHS England) and One Mind. For example, only about 20% of apps reviewed pass ORCHA’s rigorous safety standards.

Want to find out more about best practices to track progress and performance when it comes to mental health in your workplace? Get your free copy of our pocket guide, The KPIs of Workplace Mental Mental Health.

You’ll learn:

-The pros and cons of using ROI to measure results

-What metric to use to gather data quickly

-Tips to select the right mental health KPIs for your organisation
-Additional measurements to help you evaluate your mental health initiatives

By Dr Aleksandar Matic, R&D Director at Koa Health – Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing Solutions