David C. Mohr, Ph.D. is Professor of Preventive Medicine in the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, with appointments in Departments of Preventive Medicine, Psychiatry, and Medical Social Sciences. He is the founder and Director of Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs; www.cbits.northwestern.edu), which has become one of the leading centers for research in technology and mental health in the United States.
Dr. Mohr’s work lies at the intersection of behavioral science, technology, and clinical research, focusing on the design and implementation of interventions that harness wireless and web-based technologies to promote mental health and wellness. While there has been much research over the past decades demonstrating the potential for digital mental health, real-world implementation has been elusive. The overarching goal of this work is to sustainably implement digital mental health interventions in real-world care settings. To achieve this, is work is now focused on three areas: design, methods, and harnessing new opportunities.
Most digital mental health interventions have been designed to teach people concepts from evidence based treatment models. Dr. Mohr is shifting his design work to incorporate user-centered design methods that incorporate information from all relevant stakeholders, including patients, providers, and administrators. Design focuses not just on the technology, but also on the service and how the service can be enabled by the technology. The goal is to develop technology enabled services that are useful and usable, fitting into the fabric of people’s lives and into the workflow of providers (usually care managers).
Our research methods do not support the goals and nature of digital mental health. Evaluation is long, resulting in validation of technologies that are out of date. More importantly, the fact that the many randomized controlled trials have shown efficacy have not translated in to successful implementation suggests our methods are insufficient. Dr. Mohr’s methodological work has sought to shift methods towards “solution-focused research” in which the end goal is sustainable implementation, and not just efficacy data.
Dr. Mohr’s work is harnessing new opportunities. To meet the needs for digital mental health to be adaptable to patients and care systems, he has moved away from individual treatment applications to developing a platform of mobile phone apps and tools, called IntelliCare, each of which supports a single, simple targeted behavioral strategy. Patients and care managers can select those tools that are most helpful. His team is developing a recommender engine that will optimize the user’s experience through algorithms that leverage passively collected use data to suggest new apps that the individual is more likely to use and find useful. Dr. Mohr is also working on personal sensing, which harnesses sensor data from mobile phones to estimate behaviors related to depression and anxiety, and ultimately symptom severity.
Dr. Mohr has been elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the Society for Behavioral Medicine. His work has been consistently funded as the principal investigator by the United States National Institutes of Health for more than 20 years, resulting in over 200 peer-reviewed publications, and more than 25 book chapters.