Exploring the use of mobile information and communication technology by people with mood disorders, and their health and social care professionals

  • Hamish Fulford

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Background and objectives: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been in use in the health setting since the time of the first telephones. However, the advent of computers, personal-computers (PCs) and, more recently, mobile information and communication technologies (mICTs) such as mobile phones, smartphones, tablet-pcs and laptops, has seen technology become increasingly integrated into how care is delivered and received. No research has yet explored how people with mood disorders use mICTs in their everyday lives and, more specifically, how they might use mICTs to look after themselves. This oversight has led to technology redundancy and high attrition rates in the use of this type of technology. Further research was therefore required to understand the meaning that this type of technology holds for people with mood disorders. This qualitative study aimed to explore the views and experiences of people with mood disorders, and their mental health and social care professionals, in using mICTs.

    Design and methods: A meta-synthesis was completed, guided by the work of Sandelowski and Barroso, using thematic synthesis an approach, as designed by Thomas and Harden. An exploratory qualitative approach, using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 26 patients with mood disorders in secondary and specialist mental health services, and ten mental health and social care professionals, was subsequently employed. Participants’ datasets were analysed using Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT). Grounded theory (GT) involves the gradual identification and integration of categories of meaning from the data, and the identification of relationships between them.

    Results: The rigorous and systematic nature of the meta-synthesis identified shortcomings in current research and clearly identified a gap in the research literature regarding mICTs and mood disorders. The in-depth primary study created a theory explaining how mobile technology was used in daily life, and also, more specifically, how it was used to manage recovery from mood disorders. The core category and participants’ main concern that emerged from the data, forming theory, was ‘Centrality; through praxis of interconnectivity’. Patients with mood disorders used their mICTs to stay central within their on-and-offline worlds and held them central in their importance of attachment. Health and social care professionals worked around their provision of basic mICTs and lack of informational support when using them with their patients. Centrality was achieved through the ‘Praxis of interconnectivity’; the act of managing their connectedness using mICTs. This interconnectivity was not fixed; instead, it offered fluidity for participants to manage their continuums of use through their ‘Outsourcing of needs’, ‘Management of needs’, and ‘Disconnection of needs’.

    Conclusions and future implications
    : This study refocused the attention of ICT research onto arguably the most important person, the end-user, and, in this instance, the people recovering from mood disorders, and their health and social care professionals. The CGT provided, for the first time, a theory that explained how people made use of their mICTs. Additional research is warranted to further understand the transferability of the theory to other client groups, and, in so doing, whether it can be transformed into a formal theory. Also, further research is recommended to translate the theory into practical tools for clinicians; for example, the creation of an mICT self-management questionnaire or a digital hygiene support package. Both patients recovering from mood disorders, and health and social care professionals, can utilise the findings of this study to help make sense of their mICT use. The study findings can also help inform and encourage the further incorporation of mICTs into the health and social care settings; spanning the therapeutic to systemic levels so that the full potential of these ubiquitous technologies can be harnessed to improve care and care delivery.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSteve MacGillivray (Supervisor), Linda McSwiggan (Supervisor) & Thilo Kroll (Supervisor)


    • eHealth
    • ICT
    • mHealth
    • Mood disorders

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