Part one introduced our research mission, the role and importance of efficacy research in digital mental health, and how we are building a robust evidence base of the impact of the Unmind platform and contributing to the scientific literature. In this part, we share the thinking behind our research roadmap and show you some of our research plans for 2021.
What is our 'research roadmap'?
As a research team we’ve developed a research roadmap. This outlines our current studies, others we are planning and preparing to launch, and our wishlist of ideas for the future. These align with our research mission.
We created the roadmap in consultation with our academic collaborator, Prof. Kate Cavanagh at the University of Sussex. We reviewed the academic literature, along with NICE workplace wellbeing guidelines, to identify gaps in the evidence base that we might address. We also asked teams across Unmind for their views on how research could help evolve the product.
Following this, we generated specific research questions that we thought would be of interest to our users, our clients, and academics or clinicians interested in digital mental health. The first few studies on our roadmap will focus on answering research questions related to the feasibility and functionality of the platform, and then we’ll move on to address some of the more complex and exciting research questions that will help us advance the field of digital mental health.
In 2021, we're focusing on three key areas:
- Efficacy research
- Index (our mental health and wellbeing assessment tool) validation studies
- Client-based studies
Participation in our studies is always voluntary. For our efficacy research and Index validation studies, we recruit participants externally; people who have never used Unmind before.
What studies will we be running in 2021?
You can see our specific study plans in relation to these three key areas in our timeline below. Then we’ll then delve deeper into some of the highlights.
Our efficacy studies
As we talked about in part one, efficacy studies are an important part of evaluating digital mental health interventions.
We’re using a randomised controlled trial (RCT) design for our efficacy studies, to evaluate the impact of the content on our platform on users’ mental health and wellbeing and workplace outcomes. This high-quality evidence-based approach makes it possible to see the platform’s true impact.
We’re evaluating different components that feature on our platform, currently:
- Tools – standalone audio sessions designed to be used in the moment, e.g. to relax or to aid sleep.
- Series – structured programmes addressing different topics, designed to boost specific aspects of mental health and wellbeing.
To begin with, we’re taking the essential first step known as pilot studies. These are smaller-scale studies that will help inform how we carry out more resource-intensive studies later.
Pilot RCTs assess some additional important aspects:
Acceptability: It’s important to understand the ways people use digital interventions and how well these meet their needs. Acceptability involves exploring things such as whether participants complete all the components of an intervention, and how satisfied they feel with it.
Feasibility: This relates to the practicalities of the study, such as whether we can recruit the planned number of participants and whether they follow study instructions.
Series efficacy pilot RCT – resilience, stress and worry
We recently completed our first-ever efficacy study. This involved recruiting 400 adults externally and allocating them to one of four groups. We asked them to work through one of three Series on our platform (or none if they were in the control group):
All participants completed questionnaires about symptoms of common mental health problems both before and after the intervention period, so that for our analysis any change in the degree of symptoms over time could be compared between the different groups.
Marcos, our Principle Researcher, recently presented this study at the MQ's Mental Health Science Summit conference, which is held in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. The academic publication of this study will be published in the coming months, and we'll share it when it's live.
Efficacy studies in the pipeline – A sneak peek
We’re currently preparing to launch two more efficacy studies. The first will evaluate some of our audio Tools and the second will focus on a select group of Series. We look forward to sharing more details with you once these are up and running.
Our Index validation studies
One of the unique features of the Unmind platform is our own measure of mental health and wellbeing – the Unmind Index. It’s designed to give users insight into fluctuations in their mental health and wellbeing, and provide them with personalised recommendations. Because we adopt a preventative approach.
It’s important that any measure of mental health is credible, reliable, and robust. For instance, it needs to be able to detect changes in mental health and wellbeing, and it should adequately capture the constructs that it is designed to measure. This is where validation studies come in…
By recruiting many participants to complete our Index alongside other standardised measures of mental health, we can apply various statistical techniques to test the validity and reliability of the Index.
We're currently finalising the write-up of our first UK validation study, a collaboration with The Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge. We'll soon be replicating this work in the US, New Zealand, Australia and beyond, ensuring our global user base can rely on the Unmind Index as a robust measure of their mental health and wellbeing.
Our longer-term goal – Client-based studies
We have plans to recruit real-life Unmind users to volunteer as study participants, to help understand the impact of the platform when it’s used in a ‘real-life’ context.
We’ll aim to capture the broader impact of the platform as a whole – not just on the mental health of our users, but also the outcomes for our clients. We’ve already conducted some small-scale work with existing clients with promising results, and we’ll soon be agreeing on next steps. So watch this space.
That’s our research roadmap and our research plans for 2021. Part three will demonstrate the best research practices we follow to ensure our research is ethical, responsible and trustworthy.
Find out more about Unmind
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