Interacting with healthcare avatars may reduce depressive symptoms in youngsters
Washington, Feb 12 : Depression symptoms may be significantly reduced when 18 to 25-year-olds interact with computerized avatars‚Euro"virtual 3D images of a healthcare provider like a nurse practitioner or physician ‚Euro"as a way to rehearse office visits ahead of time and learn self-management skills, a news study has revealed.
"Avatar-based depression self-management technology: promising approach to improve depression symptoms among young adults," the researchers said.
Melissa Pinto, PhD, RN, a KL2 Clinical Research Scholar and instructor at Case Western Reserve's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, collaborated with developers of the Electronic Self-Management Resource Training (eSMART) team: Ronald Hickman Jr., PhD, ACNP-BC, and John Clochesy, PhD, RN, FAAN (now at University of Southern Florida) from the nursing school, and Marc Buchner, PhD, from the Virtual Gaming Lab at Case Western Reserve's engineering school.
Pinto said that the study was the first to her knowledge to use an avatar-based intervention for this age group to improve depressive symptoms.
The researcher used a Case Western Reserve-designed virtual program, called eSMART-MH. eSMART-MH was adapted from a previous platform (eSMART-HD) designed by the team to help adults with chronic health problems manage their health.
The interactive avatar program, eSMART-MH, was designed in Buchner's Virtual Gaming Lab and tailored for young adults with depressive symptoms.
eSMART-MH walks young adults through healthcare appointments with an avatar healthcare provider in virtual primary care office setting.
During these visits, young adults practice talking about depression, ask avatar healthcare providers questions and learn self-managements skills to help manage depressive symptoms.
At this age, a majority of young people do not make contact with mental health providers until years after they first experience depressive symptoms.
And those who do seek professional help may go to their first few appointments, but stop going soon after, Pinto said, who has studied mental health interventions in adolescents and young adults for six years.
The results are published in the current Applied Nursing Research journal article (http://www.appliednursingresearch.org/).