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eHealth Use on Acute Inpatient Mental Health Units: Implementation Processes, Common Practices, and Barriers to Use.

Bass E, Garabrant J, Salyers MP, Patterson S, Iwamasa GY, McGuire AB. eHealth Use on Acute Inpatient Mental Health Units: Implementation Processes, Common Practices, and Barriers to Use. Administration and policy in mental health. 2023 Jul 1; 50(4):603-615.

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Information technology to promote health (eHealth) is an important and growing area of mental healthcare, yet little is known about the use of patient-facing eHealth in psychiatric inpatient settings. This quality improvement project examined the current practices, barriers, implementation processes, and contextual factors affecting eHealth use across multiple Veteran Health Administration (VHA) acute mental health inpatient units. Staff from units serving both voluntary and involuntary patients (n = 49 from 37 unique sites) completed surveys regarding current, desired, and barriers to use of Veteran-facing eHealth technologies. Two subsets of respondents were then interviewed (high success sites in eHealth use, n = 6; low success sites, n = 4) to better understand the context of their eHealth use. Survey responses indicated that 20% or less of Veterans were using any type of eHealth technology while inpatient. Tablets and video chat were the most desired overall and most successfully used eHealth technologies. However, many sites noted difficulty implementing these technologies (e.g., limited Wi-Fi access). Qualitative analysis of interviews revealed differences in risk/benefit analysis and implementation support between high and low success eHealth sites. Despite desired use, patient-facing eHealth technology is not regularly implemented on inpatient units due to multiple barriers (e.g., limited staffing, infrastructure needs). Successful implementation of patient-facing eHealth may require an internal champion, guidance from external supports with experience in successful eHealth use, workload balance for staff, and an overall perspective shift in the benefits to eHealth technology versus the risks.

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