Apps, News

App supports healthcare worker mental health in new study from KCL

New research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London indicates that the mental health and wellbeing of frontline NHS healthcare workers can be supported and improved through use of the mental wellbeing app Koa Foundations.

Designed by Koa Health, the app provides a library of content to help with topics such as stress, poor sleep, anxious thoughts and low self-esteem. Content is curated by psychologists and developed using National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) techniques.

The study from King’s College London, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved over a thousand healthcare workers from across England. Approximately half were provided with access to Koa Foundations, with surveys at four and eight weeks.

Results showed that use of the app by clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers was associated with “statistically significant improvement in mental health and wellbeing”. Researchers noted reduction in symptoms of behavioural and intellectual distress at follow ups and a decrease in the likelihood of experiencing insomnia, with effects most strongly seen in women, clinical staff and younger participants.

Professor Simon Wessely, Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King’s IoPPN and senior author of the study, commented: “The Covid-19 pandemic introduced a period of unparalleled pressure on frontline healthcare workers; pressure which arguably remains today. Many organisations have admirably sought to support staff during the pandemic through a range of initiatives, however, there has so far been a lack of evidence as to what works and for whom. Our study established that a smartphone based mental health support for health workers can be of help.”

The results are “promising”, according to Dr Ben Carter, Reader at King’s IoPPN and study senior statistician. “We have undertaken a large robust randomised controlled trial, which enrolled a typical healthcare worker population with a range of symptoms,” he noted. “This means the findings are likely to be generalisable to the hospital workforce across the UK. Going forward the app could be offered throughout the UK with ease and at scale to provide an effective intervention to support our NHS workforce.” 

Koa Health’s CEO, Dr Oliver Harrison, added: “We look forward to further investigating how Koa Foundations can help meet the mental health needs of all those in need of support.” 

The study was possible thanks to funding from Koa Foundations.