Focus on WorkPackage (WP) 1 and identifying the needs of users of digital tools for anxiety management

WP1 has been rich in activities, with the main objective of identifying the needs of end-users in terms of digital tools for anxiety management: i) the IMAGINE study, ii) the organisation of Hackathons, iii) the work on an evaluation grid. D├ęborah Sebbane, Director of the WHOCC, agreed to answer our questions:

What are the needs, the use, the acceptance, and the representations of users of new technologies for anxiety management?

The IMAGINE study carried out within the IT4Anxiety project aims to reply to this question, by including in its study population all users of new technologies in mental health: those living with and/or suffering from anxiety, carers, and health/mental health professionals. A survey has been disseminated in all the IMAGINE study partner countries (Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, Northern Ireland and France). At the same time, focus groups have been carried out with the three study populations. The IMAGINE international research consortium, led by the WHOCC within the IT4Anxiety project, met every second week to review progress. Analysis of the data collected as part of the IMAGINE study was completed in June, and the initial results were presented at the final conference of the IT4Anxiety project, held in Namur on 29 June.

How were collaborations between start-ups, users and healthcare professionals carried out in WP1?

Hackathons have been organised in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland and France gathering start-up managers, users of mental health services, healthcare professionals, carer representatives, experts in design thinking and business models, students, etc. Each time, the participants worked in teams for two days with the aim of co-creating or developing new ideas in digital mental health. The number of participants ranged from a minimum of 23 in Scotland to a maximum of 83 in Germany, sometimes with online organization due to the Covid 19 pandemic. 11 start-ups or business projects were awarded prizes and gained visibility. They were also given the opportunity to join the IT4Anxiety project, in particular with the objective of testing their solution in healthcare settings.

The literature tells us about the difficulty in evaluating the quality of these digital tools and their effectiveness among target populations. How has the IT4Anxiety project considered this major issue for improving people's mental health?

Indeed, this is a major issue for the implementation of digital technology in the field of mental health. WP 1, on which we worked at the WHOCC, involved the co-writing (by people experiencing anxiety, carers and professionals) of an evaluation grid for digital mental health tools relating to anxiety management. This work was carried out within reflection groups organised in the IMAGINE study partner countries. It will not replace high-level research on the effectiveness of digital tools in mental health, but it can give an initial indication of the match between the needs expressed by end-users and those covered by the tool being evaluated.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all participants of the various WP1 activities since 2020!

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