Meru Health's app-based program will be deployed and evaluated among roughly 70 older adults with depression symptoms.

Stanford, VA Palo Alto Health Care System launch trial of digital depression therapy program

By Dave Muoio
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The acceptability, safety, feasibility and preliminary efficacy of Meru Health’s digital therapeutic for depression will be evaluated in a new two-year investigation conducted by Stanford Medicine and VA Palo Alto Health Care System researchers.

According to a clinicaltrials.gov listing, the research program will enroll older adults aged at least 40 years with depressive symptoms in two studies. 

The first will explore the feasibility of the eight-week Meru Health Ascend Program, a app-based guided course that includes live visits and check-ins with a Meru Health therapist, interactive content teaching cognitive behavioral techniques and mindfulness skills, and group conversations with anonymous peers.

After gaining a handle on the app’s usability and user perceptions, the second study will act as a proof of concept for a 12-week version of the program. Set to begin in April 2019, it will use a nonrandomized, pre-post design to identify whether program participants can achieve clinically significant reductions of their depression symptoms.

The first leg of the investigation is currently recruiting toward its goal of 70 participants, while the second has a estimated completion date of July 30, 2020.

Why it matters

The studies are a chance for Meru Health to generate validation data for its digital mental health program, a growing focus among the budding digital therapeutics field and an advantage that the majority of health apps available to consumers currently lack.

In addition, Meru Health noted in its own announcement that the new trial’s older patient population stands out from those of other digital depression treatments investigations.

What’s the trend

Meru Health’s program has already seen a handful of deployments. In 2017, The Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), a healthcare organization that is part of Sutter Health in California, looked to the digital health company’s program as a potential answer to burnout and depression among physicians. A year later, Meru Health, Finnish Student Health System and eClinicalHealth teamed up to study how the intervention might help Finnish students.