Potential Advantages and Challenges With Technology-Based Intervention Approaches

As noted early in this chapter, while the application of technologies for the delivery of interventions has vast potential, it is important to be aware of the potential advantages and disadvantages associated with these approaches. These advantages include potential cost savings because of reductions in costs (e.g., transportation costs) associated with office-based and in-home interventions; access to larger numbers of individuals who could potentially benefit from interventions; enhanced flexibility with respect to tailoring and presentation of information; and convenience. Many at-risk individuals in need of behavioral interventions may lack the means to access these interventions. For example, about 75% of primary care patients suffering from depression report at least one barrier that inhibits or prevents access to treatment, and the percentage of patients reporting such barriers are increased among rural populations (Mohr et al., 2010, 2013). BITs can help decrease such barriers. In addition to providing increased access of behavioral therapies to populations that experience barriers to receiving treatment, BITs also have the potential to contribute significantly to a research agenda through innovation. As outlined by Mohr et al. (2013),

BITs not only provide new delivery media for mental health treatments, they also open the possibility for entirely new interventions. For example, mobile technologies can harness sensors and ubiquitous computing to provide continuous monitoring and/or intervention in the patient’s environment. Virtual reality creates simulated environments that afford a high degree of control in engineering the provision of therapeutic experiences. Gaming may provide teaching methods that are more engaging. These opportunities may also challenge and expand the limits of our knowledge regarding human behavior and behavior change processes. (p. 333)

However, use of technology-based approaches is not without challenges— although it is generally assumed that “everyone” has access and uses the latest technologies, there are still some segments of the population for whom access is challenging. This is especially true of populations with lower education/income and minority groups that may not be able to afford broadband access or rely on Internet connectivity outside the home—Pew finds that a much higher proportion of Black and Hispanic adults rely on Internet access outside the home compared to Whites (Zickuhr, 2013). Rural populations also utilize the Internet at a lower rate compared to suburban and urban groups (as much as 20% of rural populations are offline; Zickuhr, 2013); this can prove to be a significant hurdle for researchers testing an online intervention and who want to include participants living in a rural area. Other challenges include issues with adherence, the constant evolution of technology, and the constraints of skeuomorphisms.

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