A recently published study demonstrates that the digital app Brain in Hand can reduce anxiety in adults with autism.

The app, developed by UK-based digital healthcare company, Brain in Hand, offers a self-management system for people with neurological differences and mental health issues. Using a combination of practical coaching, digital tools and 24/7 human support, it aims to give users independence.

The new study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, discovered that users of the app had a significant drop in their anxiety levels and were better able to deal with daily life challenges.

The study, which was conducted across several English and Welsh universities and health trusts, surveyed 99 adults with autism and the primary outcome measures were the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for People with Learning Disabilities (HONOS-LD) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). 

Sixty-six of 99 participants completed the study and there was significant reduction in mean HONOS-LD scores, with 0.65 s.d. decrease in those who used Brain in Hand for 12 weeks.

The research also identified other areas of improvements in candidates, with self-injuring behaviours reduced by half and a drop in memory and orientation issues. Problems with communication, eating, drinking, sleeping and relationships also showed a positive impact from the technology.

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It is reported that 75% of the UK’s autism population have difficulties accessing healthcare and 88% report their health needs are misunderstood by healthcare professionals.

Professor Rohit Shankar, Professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Plymouth led the study and Dr Samuel Tromans, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Leicester, led the writing on the manuscript.

“There are more than 700,000 autistic people in the UK and therefore it’s important to find and research therapeutic methods of helping those who need it,” said Shankar. He added that a range of digital tools could better assist adults with autism in their work and personal life.

Shankar also highlighted that Brain in Hand met the minimum requirements for tier C of the NICE Standard Evidence Framework for Health Digital Technologies.

There has been significant interest in the use of digital interventions as a means of supporting people with autism. Digital approaches may be of particular benefit as they can provide a predictable and consistent communication and environment, which adults can navigate at their own pace, repeating lessons where necessary. 

In the US, New York-based company Hopper Health offers a virtual platform that connects adults with autism and other conditions like OCD, ADHD and Tourette’s to healthcare providers. Currently patients from New York and California can get a monthly membership but there are plans to expand the in-network insurance and Medicaid coverage.