BACKGROUND: While eMental health interventions can have many potential benefits for mental health care, implementation outcomes are often disappointing. In order to improve these outcomes, there is a need for a better understanding of complex, dynamic interactions between a broad range of implementation-related factors. These interactions and processes should be studied holistically, paying attention to factors related to context, technology, and people.
OBJECTIVE: The main objective of this mixed-method study was to holistically evaluate the implementation strategies and outcomes of an eMental health intervention in an organization for forensic mental health care.
METHODS: First, desk research was performed on 18 documents on the implementation process. Second, the intervention's use by 721 patients and 172 therapists was analyzed via log data. Third, semistructured interviews were conducted with all 18 therapists of one outpatient clinic to identify broad factors that influence implementation outcomes. The interviews were analyzed via a combination of deductive analysis using the nonadoption, abandonment, scale-up, spread, and sustainability framework and inductive, open coding.
RESULTS: The timeline generated via desk research showed that implementation strategies focused on technical skills training of therapists. Log data analyses demonstrated that 1019 modules were started, and 18.65% (721/3865) of patients of the forensic hospital started at least one module. Of these patients, 18.0% (130/721) completed at least one module. Of the therapists using the module, 54.1% (93/172 sent at least one feedback message to a patient. The median number of feedback messages sent per therapist was 1, with a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 460. Interviews showed that therapists did not always introduce the intervention to patients and using the intervention was not part of their daily routine. Also, therapists indicated patients often did not have the required conscientiousness and literacy levels. Furthermore, they had mixed opinions about the design of the intervention. Important organization-related factors were the need for more support and better integration in organizational structures. Finally, therapists stated that despite its current low use, the intervention had the potential to improve the quality of treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Synthesis of different types of data showed that implementation outcomes were mostly disappointing. Implementation strategies focused on technical training of therapists, while little attention was paid to changes in the organization, design of the technology, and patient awareness. A more holistic approach toward implementation strategies-with more attention to the organization, patients, technology, and training therapists-might have resulted in better implementation outcomes. Overall, adaptivity appears to be an important concept in eHealth implementation: a technology should be easily adaptable to an individual patient, therapists should be trained to deal flexibly with an eMental health intervention in their treatment, and organizations should adapt their implementation strategies and structures to embed a new eHealth intervention.
- blended care
- forensic mental health care
- log data