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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.
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: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03555435; http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03555435.