Fortuna KL, Divatia S, Neupane S, Geiger P and Bohm A (2023) “As soon as I start trusting human beings, they disappoint me, and now I am going to get on an app that someone could hack. I really do not want to take that chance”: barriers and facilitators to digital peer support implementation into community mental health centers. Front. Digit. Health 5:1130095. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2023.1130095
This study aimed to identify barriers and facilitators to implementation of digital peer support based on perspectives of patients with serious mental illness (SMI) and certified peer support specialists. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 27 participants (17 persons with SMI and 10 certified peer support specialists) at an urban community mental health center. Agency staff in a community mental health center shared information about the study with potential participants for recruitment. The interview guide included six broad questions to evaluate feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of a digital peer support intervention for patients with SMI. Patient participants were on average 51 years of age, mostly male, white and had varying mental health diagnoses. Peer support specialists were on average 40 years of age, all female and white. Nine barriers were identified: 1) adaptability to the needs of older patients, 2) technology complexity, 3) cost of implementation, 4) compatibility with patients’ real-world environment, 5) quality of communications, 6) availability of resources, 7) access to information, 8) lack of human interaction, and 9) patients’ personality and characteristics. Two facilitators were identified: 1) increased access to health care and 2) relative advantage of implementing digital peer support compared to in-person meetings. Overall, patients with SMI have unique needs regarding training and access to digital peer support. In-person interaction is preferred, but digital peer support can be a helpful augment to clinical treatment. Identification of implementation barriers and facilitators can inform multilevel strategies to increase uptake of digital peer support in community mental health centers.