Health apps and placebo effect

A recently published study shows a placebo effect with health apps

Wed, 2021 / 06 / 16
Digital health apps (DiGA) have now been available in healthcare reality in Germany for just over half a year. However, they have not yet arrived in the general population, with only two percent of respondents in a study commissioned by the Siemens Betriebskrankenkasse, a German SHI reporting that they had been prescribed an app on prescription (1). Nonetheless, the wheel of science continues to turn in this area. A randomized controlled trial has now shown for the first time that expectations may also play a role in the digital realm when it comes to app effectiveness (2). Specifically, a 20-day, smartphone-based, outpatient mental health intervention was studied.

The international research team led by Gunther Meinlschmidt and Esther Stalujanis of the University of Berlin randomized a total of 132 patients into four study groups, which were told at different time points that the application would have an effect. Group one was told prospective that an effect could be expected, while group two was retrospective told that an effect had occurred. In group three, both statements were combined. Group four received no statement as a control group.

Two main findings were found by this study design:
  1. The variable "day of intervention" was negatively associated with credibility and expectation. This suggests the interpretation that application credibility decreased with duration of us.                                           
  2. A significant three-way interaction was found between the retrospective and prospective efficacy statements and the intervention day, which means that statements regarding the effect of an application can have a positive influence on the use and credibility of an application, which would lead to fewer patients dropping out of treatment - a problem that some applications are currently facing (3).

Continually evolving scientific evidence and the adherence issues just mentioned are just two of many reasons why applications need a comprehensive value story and go-to-market strategy. At SKC, we can support you in terms of the formulation of this value story and highlight value propositions for providers, health plans and, most importantly, patients.

Sources in German:

Author: Sebastian Marben, M. Sc.

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Ihr Ansprechpartner  Maximilian C. Florian
Maximilian C. Florian
M. Sc. Health Economics
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