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Preview: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Journal of Medical Internet Research

The leading peer-reviewed journal for digital medicine, and health & healthcare in the Internet age.


Web-Based Aftercare for Women With Bulimia Nervosa Following Inpatient Treatment: Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial


Background: Relapse rates in bulimia nervosa (BN) are high even after successful treatment, but patients often hesitate to take up further treatment. An easily accessible program might help maintain treatment gains. Encouraged by the effects of Web-based eating disorder prevention programs, we developed a manualized, Web-based aftercare program (IN@) for women with BN following inpatient treatment. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy of the web-based guided, 9-month, cognitive-behavioral aftercare program IN@ for women with BN following inpatient treatment. Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled efficacy trial in 253 women with DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition) BN and compared the results of IN@ with treatment as usual (TAU). Assessments were carried out at hospital admission (T0), hospital discharge/baseline (T1), postintervention (T2; 9 months after baseline), 9-month follow-up (T3; 18 months after baseline). The primary outcome, abstinence from binge eating and compensatory behaviors during the 2 months preceding T2, was analyzed by intention to treat, using logistic regression analyses. Frequencies of binge eating and vomiting episodes, and episodes of all compensatory behaviors were analyzed using mixed effects models. Results: At T2, data from 167 women were available. There were no significant differences in abstinence rates between the TAU group (n=24, 18.9%) and the IN@ group (n=27, 21.4%; odds ratio, OR=1.29; P=.44). The frequency of vomiting episodes in the IN@ group was significantly (46%) lower than in the TAU group (P=.003). Moderator analyses revealed that both at T2 and T3, women of the intervention group who still reported binge eating and compensatory behaviors after inpatient treatment benefited from IN@, whereas women who were already abstinent after the inpatient treatment did not (P=.004; P=.002). Additional treatment utilization was high in both groups between baseline and follow-up. Conclusions: Overall, data from this study suggest moderate effects of IN@. High rates of outpatient treatment utilization after inpatient treatment may have obscured potential intervention effects on abstinence. An aftercare intervention might be more beneficial as part of a stepped-care approach. Trial Registration: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 08870215; (Archived by WebCite at (image)

A Dermatologist's Ammunition in the War Against Smoking: A Photoaging App


This viewpoint reviews the perspectives for dermatology as a specialty to go beyond the substantial impact of smoking on skin disease and leverage the impact of skin changes on a person's self-concept and behavior in the design of effective interventions for smoking prevention and cessation. (image)

Computerized Adaptive Testing Provides Reliable and Efficient Depression Measurement Using the CES-D Scale


Background: The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) is a measure of depressive symptomatology which is widely used internationally. Though previous attempts were made to shorten the CES-D scale, few have attempted to develop a Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT) version for the CES-D. Objective: The aim of this study was to provide evidence on the efficiency and accuracy of the CES-D when administered using CAT using an American sample group. Methods: We obtained a sample of 2060 responses to the CESD-D from US participants using the myPersonality application. The average age of participants was 26 years (range 19-77). We randomly split the sample into two groups to evaluate and validate the psychometric models. We used evaluation group data (n=1018) to assess dimensionality with both confirmatory factor and Mokken analysis. We conducted further psychometric assessments using item response theory (IRT), including assessments of item and scale fit to Samejima’s graded response model (GRM), local dependency and differential item functioning. We subsequently conducted two CAT simulations to evaluate the CES-D CAT using the validation group (n=1042). Results: Initial CFA results indicated a poor fit to the model and Mokken analysis revealed 3 items which did not conform to the same dimension as the rest of the items. We removed the 3 items and fit the remaining 17 items to GRM. We found no evidence of differential item functioning (DIF) between age and gender groups. Estimates of the level of CES-D trait score provided by the simulated CAT algorithm and the original CES-D trait score derived from original scale were correlated highly. The second CAT simulation conducted using real participant data demonstrated higher precision at the higher levels of depression spectrum. Conclusions: Depression assessments using the CES-D CAT can be more accurate and efficient than those made using the fixed-length assessment. (image)

Personalized Hypertension Management Using Patient-Generated Health Data Integrated With Electronic Health Records (EMPOWER-H): Six-Month Pre-Post Study


Background: EMPOWER-H (Engaging and Motivating Patients Online With Enhanced Resources-Hypertension) is a personalized-care model facilitating engagement in hypertension self-management utilizing an interactive Web-based disease management system integrated with the electronic health record. The model is designed to support timely patient-provider interaction by incorporating decision support technology to individualize care and provide personalized feedback for patients with chronic disease. Central to this process were patient-generated health data, including blood pressure (BP), weight, and lifestyle behaviors, which were uploaded using a smartphone. Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the program among patients within primary care already under management for hypertension and with uncontrolled BP. Methods: Using a 6-month pre-post design, outcome measures included office-measured and home-monitored BP, office-measured weight, intervention contacts, diet, physical activity, smoking, knowledge, and health-related quality of life. Results: At 6 months, 55.9% of participants (N=149) achieved office BP goals (<140/90 mm Hg; P<.001) and 86.0% achieved clinically meaningful reduction in office BP (reduction in systolic BP [SBP] ≥5 mm Hg or diastolic BP [DBP] ≥3 mm Hg). At baseline, 25.2% of participants met home BP goals (<135/85 mm Hg), and this percentage significantly increased to 71.4% (P<.001) at 6 months. EMPOWER-H also significantly reduced both office and home SBP and DBP, decreased office-measured weight and consumption of high-salt and high-fat foods (all P<.005), and increased intake of fruit and vegetables, minutes of aerobic exercise, and hypertension knowledge (all P<.05). Patients with higher home BP upload frequencies had significantly higher odds of achieving home BP goals. Patients receiving more total intervention, behavioral, pharmaceutical contacts had significantly lower odds of achieving home BP goals but higher improvements in office BP (all P<.05). Conclusions: EMPOWER-H significantly improved participants’ office-measured and home-monitored BP, weight, and lifestyle behaviors, suggesting that technologically enabled BP home-monitoring, with structured use of patient-generated health data and a personalized care-plan facilitating patient engagement, can support effective clinical management. The experience gained in this study provides support for the feasibility and value of using carefully managed patient-generated health data in the day-to-day clinical management of patients with chronic conditions. A large-scale, real-world study to evaluate sustained effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and scalability is warranted. (image)

Components and Outcomes of Internet-Based Interventions for Caregivers of Older Adults: Systematic Review


Background: When trying to access interventions to improve their well-being and quality of life, family caregivers face many challenges. Internet-based interventions provide new and accessible opportunities to remotely support them and can contribute to reducing their burden. However, little is known about the link existing between the components, the use of behavior change techniques, and the outcomes of these Internet-based interventions. Objective: This study aimed to provide an update on the best available evidence about the efficacy of Internet-based interventions for caregivers of older adults. Specifically, the components and the use of behavior change techniques and how they impact on the efficacy of the intervention were sought. Methods: A systematic review searched primary source studies published between 2000 and 2015. Included studies were scored with a high level of evidence by independent raters using the GRADE criteria and reported caregiver-specific outcomes about interventions delivered through the Internet for caregivers of people aged 50 years and older. A narrative synthesis identified intervention components (eg, content, multimedia use, interactive online activities, and provision of support), behavior change techniques, and caregiver outcomes (eg, effects on stressors, mediators, and psychological health). The risk of bias within the included studies was assessed. Results: A total of 2338 articles were screened and 12 studies describing 10 Internet-based interventions were identified. Seven of these interventions led to statistically significant improvements in caregiver outcomes (eg, reducing depression or anxiety, n=4). These efficacious interventions used interactive components, such as online exercises and homework (n=4) or questionnaires on health status (n=2) and five of them incorporated remote human support, either by professionals or peers. The most frequently used behavior change techniques included in efficacious interventions were provision of social support (n=6) and combinations of instructions to guide behavior change and barrier identification (n=5). The design and aim of the included studies did not permit determining exactly which component and/or behavior change technique was more efficacious in producing positive outcomes in caregivers. The risk for selection bias was low for all the studies, and low to high for performance, detection, and attrition biases. Conclusions: In sum, Internet-based interventions that incorporate professional and social support, and provide instructions to change behavior and problem solve in an interactive manner appear to lead to positive outcomes in caregivers. Studies isolating the specific effect of components are needed to improve our understanding of the underlying mechanism of action. (image)

Video Game Intervention for Sexual Risk Reduction in Minority Adolescents: Randomized Controlled Trial


Background: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disproportionately impacts minority youth. Interventions to decrease HIV sexual risk are needed. Objective: We hypothesized that an engaging theory-based digital health intervention in the form of an interactive video game would improve sexual health outcomes in adolescents. Methods: Participants aged 11 to 14 years from 12 community afterschool, school, and summer programs were randomized 1:1 to play up to 16 hours of an experimental video game or control video games over 6 weeks. Assessments were conducted at 6 weeks and at 3, 6, and 12 months. Primary outcome was delay of initiation of vaginal/anal intercourse. Secondary outcomes included sexual health attitudes, knowledge, and intentions. We examined outcomes by gender and age. Results: A total of 333 participants were randomized to play the intervention (n=166) or control games (n=167): 295 (88.6%) were racial/ethnic minorities, 177 (53.2%) were boys, and the mean age was 12.9 (1.1) years. At 12 months, for the 258 (84.6%) participants with available data, 94.6% (122/129) in the intervention group versus 95.4% (123/129) in the control group delayed initiation of intercourse (relative risk=0.99, 95% CI 0.94-1.05, P=.77). Over 12 months, the intervention group demonstrated improved sexual health attitudes overall compared to the control group (least squares means [LS means] difference 0.37, 95% CI 0.01-0.72, P=.04). This improvement was observed in boys (LS means difference 0.67, P=.008), but not girls (LS means difference 0.06, P=.81), and in younger (LS means difference 0.71, P=.005), but not older participants (LS means difference 0.03, P=.92). The intervention group also demonstrated increased sexual health knowledge overall (LS means difference 1.13, 95% CI 0.64-1.61, P<.001), in girls (LS means difference 1.16, P=.001), boys (LS means difference 1.10, P=.001), younger (LS means difference 1.18, P=.001), and older (LS means difference=1.08, P=.002) participants. There were no differences in intentions to delay the initiation of intercourse between the two groups (LS means difference 0.10, P=.56). Conclusions: An interactive video game intervention improves sexual health attitudes and knowledge in minority adolescents for at least 12 months. Trial Registration: NCT01666496; (Archived by WebCite at (image)

Cardiac Patients’ Experiences and Perceptions of Social Media: Mixed-Methods Study


Background: Traditional in-person cardiac rehabilitation has substantial benefits for cardiac patients, which are offset by poor attendance. The rapid increase in social media use in older adults provides an opportunity to reach patients who are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation but unable to attend traditional face-to-face groups. However, there is a paucity of research on cardiac patients’ experiences and perspectives on using social media to support their health. Objective: The aim of this study was to describe cardiac rehabilitation patients’ experiences in using social media in general and their perspective on using social media, particularly Facebook, to support their cardiac health and secondary prevention efforts. Methods: A mixed-methods study was undertaken among cardiac rehabilitation patients in both urban and rural areas. First, this study included a survey (n=284) on social media use and capability. Second, six focus group interviews were conducted with current Facebook users (n=18) to elucidate Facebook experience and perspectives. Results: Social media use was low (28.0%, 79/282) but more common in participants who were under 70 years of age, employed, and had completed high school. Social media users accessed Web-based information on general health issues (65%, 51/79), medications (56%, 44/79), and heart health (43%, 34/79). Participants were motivated to invest time in using Facebook for “keeping in touch” with family and friends and to be informed by expert cardiac health professionals and fellow cardiac participants if given the opportunity. It appeared that participants who had a higher level of Facebook capability (understanding of features and the consequences of their use and efficiency in use) spent more time on Facebook and reported higher levels of “liking,” commenting, or sharing posts. Furthermore, higher Facebook capability appeared to increase a participants’ willingness to participate in a cardiac Facebook support group. More capable users were more receptive to the use of Facebook for cardiac rehabilitation and more likely to express interest in providing peer support. Recommended features for a cardiac rehabilitation Facebook group included a closed group, expert cardiac professional involvement, provision of cardiac health information, and ensuring trustworthiness of the group. Conclusions: Cardiac health professionals have an opportunity to capitalize on cardiac patients’ motivations and social media, mostly Facebook, as well as the capability for supporting cardiac rehabilitation and secondary prevention. Participants’ favored purposeful time spent on Facebook and their cardiac health provides such a purpose for a Facebook intervention. The study results will inform the development of a Facebook intervention for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. (image)

Blending Face-to-Face and Internet-Based Interventions for the Treatment of Mental Disorders in Adults: Systematic Review


Background: Many studies have provided evidence for the effectiveness of Internet-based stand-alone interventions for mental disorders. A newer form of intervention combines the strengths of face-to-face (f2f) and Internet approaches (blended interventions). Objective: The aim of this review was to provide an overview of (1) the different formats of blended treatments for adults, (2) the stage of treatment in which these are applied, (3) their objective in combining face-to-face and Internet-based approaches, and (4) their effectiveness. Methods: Studies on blended concepts were identified through systematic searches in the MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Cochrane, and PubMed databases. Keywords included terms indicating face-to-face interventions (“inpatient,” “outpatient,” “face-to-face,” or “residential treatment”), which were combined with terms indicating Internet treatment (“internet,” “online,” or “web”) and terms indicating mental disorders (“mental health,” “depression,” “anxiety,” or “substance abuse”). We focused on three of the most common mental disorders (depression, anxiety, and substance abuse). Results: We identified 64 publications describing 44 studies, 27 of which were randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Results suggest that, compared with stand-alone face-to-face therapy, blended therapy may save clinician time, lead to lower dropout rates and greater abstinence rates of patients with substance abuse, or help maintain initially achieved changes within psychotherapy in the long-term effects of inpatient therapy. However, there is a lack of comparative outcome studies investigating the superiority of the outcomes of blended treatments in comparison with classic face-to-face or Internet-based treatments, as well as of studies identifying the optimal ratio of face-to-face and Internet sessions. Conclusions: Several studies have shown that, for common mental health disorders, blended interventions are feasible and can be more effective compared with no treatment controls. However, more RCTs on effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of blended treatments, especially compared with nonblended treatments are necessary. (image)

Reliability of an e-PRO Tool of EORTC QLQ-C30 for Measurement of Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients With Breast Cancer: Prospective Randomized Trial


Background: Breast cancer represents the most common malignant disease in women worldwide. As currently systematic palliative treatment only has a limited effect on survival rates, the concept of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) is gaining more and more importance in the therapy setting of metastatic breast cancer. One of the major patient-reported outcomes (PROs) for measuring HRQoL in patients with breast cancer is provided by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). Currently, paper-based surveys still predominate, as only a few reliable and validated electronic-based questionnaires are available. Facing the possibilities associated with evolving digitalization in medicine, validation of electronic versions of well-established PRO is essential in order to contribute to comprehensive and holistic oncological care and to ensure high quality in cancer research. Objective: The aim of this study was to analyze the reliability of a tablet-based measuring application for EORTC QLQ-C30 in German language in patients with adjuvant and (curative) metastatic breast cancer. Methods: Paper- and tablet-based questionnaires were completed by a total of 106 female patients with adjuvant and metastatic breast cancer recruited as part of the e-PROCOM study. All patients were required to complete the electronic- (e-PRO) and paper-based versions of the HRQoL EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaire. A frequency analysis was performed to determine descriptive sociodemographic characteristics. Both dimensions of reliability (parallel forms reliability [Wilcoxon test] and test of internal consistency [Spearman rho and agreement rates for single items, Pearson correlation and Kendall tau for each scale]) were analyzed. Results: High correlations were shown for both dimensions of reliability (parallel forms reliability and internal consistency) in the patient’s response behavior between paper- and electronic-based questionnaires. Regarding the test of parallel forms reliability, no significant differences were found in 27 of 30 single items and in 14 of 15 scales, whereas a statistically significant correlation in the test of consistency was found in all 30 single items and all 15 scales. Conclusions: The evaluated e-PRO version of the EORTC QLQ-C30 is reliable for patients with both adjuvant and metastatic breast cancer, showing a high correlation in almost all questions (and in many scales). Thus, we conclude that the validated paper-based PRO assessment and the e-PRO tool are equally valid. However, the reliability should also be analyzed in other prospective trials to ensure that usability is reliable in all patient groups. Trial Registration: NCT03132506; (Archived by WebCite at (image)

User Acceptance of Computerized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression: Systematic Review


Background: Computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) has been proven to be effective in depression care. Moreover, cCBT packages are becoming increasingly popular. A central aspect concerning the take-up and success of any treatment is its user acceptance. Objective: The aim of this study was to update and expand on earlier work on user acceptance of cCBT for depression. Methods: This paper systematically reviewed quantitative and qualitative studies regarding the user acceptance of cCBT for depression. The initial search was conducted in January 2016 and involved the following databases: Web of Science, PubMed, the Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO. Studies were retained if they described the explicit examination of the user acceptance, experiences, or satisfaction related to a cCBT intervention, if they reported depression as a primary outcome, and if they were published in German or English from July 2007 onward. Results: A total of 1736 studies were identified, of which 29 studies were eligible for review. User acceptance was operationalized and analyzed very heterogeneously. Eight studies reported a very high level of acceptance, 17 indicated a high level of acceptance, and one study showed a moderate level of acceptance. Two qualitative studies considered the positive and negative aspects concerning the user acceptance of cCBT. However, a substantial proportion of reviewed studies revealed several methodical shortcomings. Conclusions: In general, people experience cCBT for depression as predominantly positive, which supports the potential role of these innovative treatments. However, methodological challenges do exist in terms of defining user acceptance, clear operationalization of concepts, and measurement. (image)