Web-Based Tools and Mobile Applications To Mitigate Burnout, Depression, and Suicidality Among Healthcare Students and Professionals: a Systematic Review

Abstract

Objective

Being a healthcare professional can be a uniquely rewarding calling. However, the demands of training and practice can lead to chronic distress and serious psychological, interpersonal, and personal health burdens. Although higher burnout, depression, and suicide rates have been reported in healthcare professionals, only a minority receive treatment. Concerns regarding confidentiality, stigma, potential career implications, and cost and time constraints are cited as key barriers. Web-based and mobile applications have been shown to mitigate stress, burnout, depression, and suicidal ideation among several populations and may circumvent these barriers. Here, we reviewed published data on such resources and selected a small sample that readily can be used by healthcare providers.

Methods

We searched PubMed for articles evaluating stress, burnout, depression, and suicide prevention or intervention for healthcare students or providers and identified five categories of programs with significant effectiveness: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (online), meditation, mindfulness, breathing, and relaxation techniques. Using these categories, we searched for Web-based (through Google and beacon.anu.edu.au—a wellness resource website) and mobile applications (Apple and mobile.va.gov/appstore) for stress, burnout, depression, and suicide prevention and identified 36 resources to further evaluate based on relevance, applicability to healthcare providers (confidentiality, convenience, and cost), and the strength of findings supporting their effectiveness.

Results

We selected seven resources under five general categories designed to foster wellness and reduce burnout, depression, and suicide risk among healthcare workers: breathing (Breath2Relax), meditation (Headspace, guided meditation audios), Web-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MoodGYM, Stress Gym), and suicide prevention apps (Stay Alive, Virtual Hope Box).

Conclusions

This list serves as a starting point to enhance coping with stressors as a healthcare student or professional in order to help mitigate burnout, depression, and suicidality. The next steps include adapting digital health strategies to specifically fit the needs of healthcare providers, with the ultimate goal of facilitating in-person care when warranted.

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Funding

This work was supported by the National Institute on Mental Health R25 grant MH071544 and the John A Majda, MD Memorial Fund.

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Correspondence to Sidney Zisook.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Pospos, S., Young, I.T., Downs, N. et al. Web-Based Tools and Mobile Applications To Mitigate Burnout, Depression, and Suicidality Among Healthcare Students and Professionals: a Systematic Review. Acad Psychiatry 42, 109–120 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-017-0868-0

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Keywords

  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Suicide prevention
  • Mobile applications
  • Web applications