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Web-Based Problem-solving Training With and Without Peer Support in Veterans With Unmet Mental Health Needs: Pilot Study of Feasibility, User Acceptability, and Participant Engagement.

Possemato K, Wu J, Greene C, MacQueen R, Blonigen D, Wade M, Owen J, Keane T, Brief D, Lindley S, Prins A, Mackintosh MA, Carlson E. Web-Based Problem-solving Training With and Without Peer Support in Veterans With Unmet Mental Health Needs: Pilot Study of Feasibility, User Acceptability, and Participant Engagement. Journal of medical Internet research. 2022 Jan 13; 24(1):e29559.

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BACKGROUND: eHealth tools have the potential to meet the mental health needs of individuals who experience barriers to accessing in-person treatment. However, most users have less than optimal engagement with eHealth tools. Coaching from peer specialists may increase their engagement with eHealth. OBJECTIVE: This pilot study aims to test the feasibility and acceptability of a novel, completely automated web-based system to recruit, screen, enroll, assess, randomize, and then deliver an intervention to a national sample of military veterans with unmet mental health needs; investigate whether phone-based peer support increases the use of web-based problem-solving training compared with self-directed use; and generate hypotheses about potential mechanisms of action for problem-solving and peer support for future full-scale research. METHODS: Veterans (N = 81) with unmet mental health needs were recruited via social media advertising and enrolled and randomized to the self-directed use of a web-based problem-solving training called Moving Forward (28/81, 35%), peer-supported Moving Forward (27/81, 33%), or waitlist control (26/81, 32%). The objective use of Moving Forward was measured with the number of log-ins. Participants completed pre- and poststudy measures of mental health symptoms and problem-solving confidence. Satisfaction was also assessed post treatment. RESULTS: Automated recruitment, enrollment, and initial assessment methods were feasible and resulted in a diverse sample of veterans with unmet mental health needs from 38 states. Automated follow-up methods resulted in 46% (37/81) of participants completing follow-up assessments. Peer support was delivered with high fidelity and was associated with favorable participant satisfaction. Participants randomized to receive peer support had significantly more Moving Forward log-ins than those of self-directed Moving Forward participants, and those who received peer support had a greater decrease in depression. Problem-solving confidence was associated with greater Moving Forward use and improvements in mental health symptoms among participants both with and without peer support. CONCLUSIONS: Enrolling and assessing individuals in eHealth studies without human contact is feasible; however, different methods or designs are necessary to achieve acceptable participant engagement and follow-up rates. Peer support shows potential for increasing engagement in web-based interventions and reducing symptoms. Future research should investigate when and for whom peer support for eHealth is helpful. Problem-solving confidence should be further investigated as a mechanism of action for web-based problem-solving training. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT03555435;

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