eSmart: A virtual tool for depression

Sept. 13, 2013

A new avatar-based depression self-management program was shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms in a small group of young adults who reported those symptoms for more than two consecutive weeks.

Melissa Pinto, PhD, RN, a nursing researcher at Emory University's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, will present results of that research at the White House as part of the Technology Innovations for Substance Use and Mental Health Disorders conference on Sept. 16 as part of the Future of Health IT Behavioral Health panel.

Pinto and a team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University and the University of South Florida pilot tested the three-dimensional, avatar-based program, known as the Electronic Self-Management Resource Training for Mental Heath  (eSMART-MH), which immerses young adults into a virtual, primary care environment.

Through this program, young adults interact with virtual health care providers and health coaches to practice effective communication about depression symptoms. The technology generates tailored feedback to the participants' responses.