The following is a summary of “Helpful explanatory models for persistent somatic symptoms (HERMES): Results of a three-arm randomized-controlled pilot trial,” published in the September 2023 issue of the Psychosomatic Research by Weigel et al.
This three-arm randomized controlled trial aimed to examine the efficacy of an etiological model for persistent somatic symptoms (PSS) translated into video-animated explanatory models in comparison to a control group, as well as the added value of personalization of the explanatory models (i.e., the ability to select information based on mechanisms of symptom persistence). Outpatients with PSS were exposed to one of three 15-minute video animations: explanatory model without personalization, explanatory model with personalization, or control group without explanatory model.
The primary outcome was the change in somatic symptom severity (PHQ-15) and psychological burden associated with somatic symptoms or associated health concerns (SSD-12) from baseline to one-month follow-up. Also evaluated were health-related quality of life (SF-12) and perceived usefulness (USE). Seventy-five patients with PSS (age = 44.2 ± 13.2 years, 56% female) were assigned to the study arms. The primary outcomes did not differ significantly between study arms. No participants in the explanatory model reported significantly larger mental quality of life improvements than participants in the explanatory model without personalization (Mdiff = 7.50 [0.43; 14.56]).
Moreover, an explanatory model with personalization participants assessed the intervention’s fit significantly higher than those who did not use a descriptive model (Mdiff = 2.05 [0.17; 3.93]). All groups rated the intervention’s credibility as extremely high. The HERMES materials were too brief to enhance symptom-related outcomes. Nonetheless, all three interventions were evaluated positively in their utility, particularly regarding additional personalization. Future research should investigate the possible effects of a higher intervention dose.