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LifeWIRE uses texts to keep patients in contact

Two people on cell phone and image of cell phone with text message,

"Lovell FHCC-Just a quick check in to see how you feel today. Please reply on a 1-5 scale where 1 is great and 5 = lousy."

By William Barshop
Friday, August 23, 2013

FHCC case study showed technology can be a lifeline for depressed, suicidal Veterans.  A text message could be a lifeline for some mental health patients, doctors at Lovell Federal Health Care Center have found.

It’s the act of staying in contact after treatment that can make the difference, said Dr. Greg Rimoldi, suicide prevention coordinator (SPC) at Lovell FHCC. “There have been randomized controlled trials finding that short letters, brief contacts, and even postcards reduce suicide attempts and suicide,” Rimoldi said. “New technology – such as text messaging – makes this form of ‘stay-in-contact’ suicide prevention extremely doable without a large expense.”

With this knowledge in hand, the behavioral health department at Lovell FHCC this summer launched a new follow-up mental health program using LifeWIRE.

In July, the first group of mental health outpatients began using LifeWIRE, a platform for patient communication that checks in on individual patients via text messages for mental health support. The personalized program can send motivational messages or ask for a response that rates the patient’s mood on a scale of 1 to 5. Certain responses then alert mental health providers and counselors to reach out to patients to provide additional support.

A 2012 Lovell FHCC LifeWIRE case study conducted by Rimoldi, Psychology Intern Dr. Peter Lewis, and FHCC Mental Health Department Head Dr. Chowdary Jampala, found the system to be strongly positive for the high-risk, suicidal Veterans who agreed to participate.

LifeWIRE also proved to be a valuable tool for the suicide prevention coordinator to accurately chart and streamline workloads. According to the study, patients using the technology received immediate responses from the SPC, before they were overwhelmed by stressful events. Even patients who missed appointments and telephone calls responded to text messages and mobile check-ins, according to Rimoldi.

The doctors reported that after the study ended, many participants commented that the motivational messages, including Bible passages, were encouraging. Most patients said they did not want the program to end, and that it should be available to more Veterans.

One patient in the study, Charles Brennan, highly recommended it to Veterans with depression and thoughts of suicide. “They gave me inspirational thoughts three or four times a day,” Brennan said. “It would keep me focused on not being depressed.”

LifeWIRE has been validated by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) audit and security standards, and the interactions on the platform are considered the same as paper records, thus protecting patients’ privacy even when they are communicating with their doctors from home.
LifeWIRE was named one of the Top 100 Innovations of the Next Century in 2013 by the Rockefeller Foundation, and it has been recognized by the Computerworld Honors Program for advancing public welfare through mobile devices.

Section Chief of PTSD programs at Lovell FHCC, Dr. Anthony Peterson, said he sees LifeWIRE as an invaluable new asset. “We’re excited about incorporating this technology,” Peterson said. “It will be a vital part of after-care plans for our Veterans and service members.”



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