I previously wrote about the mental health needs of our health care workers, especially in the time of COVID-19.
An article in the General Hospital Psychiatry journal reported high levels of acute stress, anxiety, and depression, experienced by healthcare professionals in NYC during COVID-19. These levels were especially high for those with the most direct patient contact. The authors said, “Our findings highlight the need for rapid interventions (psychological or organizational) to reduce psychological distress in healthcare workers. It is also important to respect workers' desires concerning the type, timing, and content of such interventions.”
I recently learned about INGAIGE, described by co-founder Tom Mann, as "a mental health app that is ONLY for health care workers and helps them cope with the stress, anxiety, depression and burnout that is unique to their jobs using AI and custom designed evidence based tools." Mann said the apps works with an engagement engine that “learns about the individual and is powered by AI to predict what works, what help is needed, and when."
After health care professionals install the app, they provide information about themselves and their jobs with a few targeted questions. The app monitors their stress, well being, sleep and integrates into their wearable if they have one. Based on all the data about that person, INGAIGE then delivers evidence-based options developed by experts who specialize in physician fatigue. The guidance is tailored to individuals based on their in-the-moment challenges.
Licensed psychotherapist Nicole Arst likes the concept because it’s tailored to health care providers. “Most health apps only provide rudimentary information and tips,” said Arst. “That isn't helpful for most providers. They already know the basic and generic guidelines. I especially like how the app anonymously integrates into HR platforms. This is beneficial for struggling professionals. Likewise, I love the comprehensive, on-demand support. This eliminates all the hoops people have to jump through to get care. Healthcare workers lead busy lives - having immediate access makes it more likely they will reach out for help.”
But Dr. Giuseppe Aragona questions how beneficial it is over existing apps. “If the app requires you to put in information,” said Aragona, “it does not take into account the tiredness and currently stretched hours of health workers, who may forget to do this. This isn't to say that the app isn't helpful for those who use it, but there are alternatives that may take you straight to the problem you are dealing with, if you can recognise it, Such as Headspace for mental health and relaxation.”
Joe Tuan, CEO with Topflightapps, believes healthcare professionals “have the same mental issues and burnout as the rest of us under stress. In that regard, a separate app focusing solely on medical staff is an overkill.”
Mann disagrees: "Experts tell us generic relaxation apps are available for managing some aspects of stress but this is not enough. Telling front line health care workers to meditate in a peaceful setting doesn’t exist in their reality of working in hospitals." INGAIGE Co-founder Andrew C Philip, PhD adds, “Hospitals are braced for a mental-health crisis among doctors and nurses. Confidential, comprehensive, and convenient support tools like INGAIGE are needed more than ever.”
Mann explains why he believes INGAIGE is different with an example. “An ER doctor is having a busy day. The doc finally gets 15 minutes to go to the cafeteria and get a cup of coffee. She is exhausted, drained, and now getting paged about a young mother going into early labor. She has five minutes to get it together, so she pops in her headphones, and uses our two-minute ‘clinical coffee break exercise,' using the coffee as a cue to train her body and mind to ‘snap out’ of her surroundings and to de-stress before getting back into the grind.”
As the General Hospital Psychiatry study noted, healthcare professionals have "reported interest in additional wellness resources." And apps may be one of many viable resources for our health care workers during the COVID-19 crisis.