Research Alert

Background: People often prefer evidence-based psychosocial interventions (EBPIs) for mental health care; however, these interventions frequently remain unavailable to people in nonspecialty or integrated settings, such as primary care and schools. Previous research has suggested that usability, a concept from human-centered design, could support an understanding of the barriers to and facilitators of the successful adoption of EBPIs and support the redesign of EBPIs and implementation strategies.

Objective: This study aimed to identify and categorize usability issues in EBPIs and their implementation strategies.

Methods: We adapted a usability issue analysis and reporting format from a human-centered design. A total of 13 projects supported by the National Institute of Mental Health—funded Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness Center at the University of Washington used this format to describe usability issues for EBPIs and implementation strategies with which they were working. Center researchers used iterative affinity diagramming and coding processes to identify usability issue categories. On the basis of these categories and the underlying issues, we propose heuristics for the design or redesign of EBPIs and implementation strategies.

Results: The 13 projects reported a total of 90 usability issues, which we categorized into 12 categories, including complex and/or cognitively overwhelming, required time exceeding available time, incompatibility with interventionist preference or practice, incompatibility with existing workflow, insufficient customization to clients/recipients, intervention buy-in (value), interventionist buy-in (trust), overreliance on technology, requires unavailable infrastructure, inadequate scaffolding for client/recipient, inadequate training and scaffolding for interventionists, and lack of support for necessary communication. These issues range from minor inconveniences that affect a few interventionists or recipients to severe issues that prevent all interventionists or recipients in a setting from completing part or all of the intervention. We propose 12 corresponding heuristics to guide EBPIs and implementation strategy designers in preventing and addressing these usability issues.

Conclusions: Usability issues were prevalent in the studied EBPIs and implementation strategies. We recommend using the lens of usability evaluation to understand and address barriers to the effective use and reach of EBPIs and implementation strategies.


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Journal of Medical Internet Research