Background: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) is a scientific self-monitoring method to capture individuals' daily life experiences. Early on, EMA has been suggested to have the potential to improve mental health care. However, it remains unclear if and how EMA should be implemented. This requires an in-depth investigation of how practitioners and researchers view the implementation of EMA.
Objective: Explore the perspectives of mental health practitioners and EMA researchers on the utility of EMA for mental health care.
Methods: Practitioners (n = 89; psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses) and EMA researchers (n = 62) completed a survey about EMA in clinical practice. This survey addressed EMA goals for practitioner and patient, requirements regarding clinical use of EMA, and (dis)advantages of EMA compared to treatment-as-usual. t-Tests were used to determine agreement with each statement and whether practitioners' and researchers' views differed significantly. Linear regression was used to explore predictors of goals and preferences (e.g., EMA experience).
Results: Practitioners and researchers considered EMA to be a useful clinical tool for diverse stages of care. They indicated EMA to be most useful for gaining insight into the context specificity of symptoms (55.0 %), whereas receiving alerts when symptoms increase was rated the least useful (11.3 %, alerts is in 95 % of bootstrap iterations between rank 8 and 10). Compared to treatment-as-usual, EMA was considered easier to use (M = 4.87, t = 5.30, p < .001) and interpret (M = 4.52, t = 3.61, p < .001), but also more burdensome for the patient (M = 4.48, t = 3.17, p < .001). Although participants preferred personalization of the EMA diary, they also suggested that EMA should cost practitioners and patients limited time. The preference for creating personalized EMA was related to the level of experience with EMA. Finally, they highlighted the need for practitioner training and patient full-time access to the EMA feedback.
Conclusions: This survey study demonstrated that practitioners and researchers expect EMA to have added value for mental health care. Concrete recommendations for implementation of EMA are formulated. This may inform the development of specific clinical applications and user-friendly EMA software.