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Mobile telephone apps in mental health practice: uses, opportunities and challenges

  • Justin Marley (a1) and Saeed Farooq (a2)

Summary

Smartphones are used by patients and clinicians alike. Vast numbers of software applications (apps) run on smartphones and carry out useful functions. Clinician- and patient-oriented mental health apps have been developed. In this article, we provide an overview of apps that are relevant for mental health. We look at clinician-oriented apps that support assessment, diagnosis and treatment as well as patient-oriented apps that support education and self-management. We conclude by looking at the challenges that apps pose with a discussion of possible solutions.

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Copyright

This is an open-access article published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Justin Marley (Justin.Marley@nepft.nhs.uk)

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Mobile telephone apps in mental health practice: uses, opportunities and challenges

  • Justin Marley (a1) and Saeed Farooq (a2)

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Mobile telephone apps in mental health practice: uses, opportunities and challenges

  • Justin Marley (a1) and Saeed Farooq (a2)
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eLetters

Response to Mobile telephone apps first need data security and efficacy

Justin C Marley, Consultant Older Adult Psychiatrist, North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust
Saeed Farooq, Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor, Visiting Professor at Staffordshire University and Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foun
24 January 2016

We are grateful for Dr Touros' interest in our article (1) and his considered response.

Our article is a brief overview of a complex subject area with scope for a detailed expansion of the discussion. There is an emerging division between professional and patient-centred apps similar to that for prescribed and over-the-counter medications. As medical professionals we can make regulatory demands in our sphere of influence but apps for the general market will emerge independently of our influence. As medical professionals we will need an awareness of apps in this latter category and be ready to manage the complex issues that arise when patients raise questions about diagnosis and management after interacting with these apps.

We have requested and received an update from NHS Choices and we have been informed that the health apps library is being upgraded following work on the assessment process by the National Information Board. The first apps are expected to have completed the new evaluation process in April 2016.

Reference:

1. Marley J and Farooq S. Mobile telephone apps first need data security and efficacy. BJPsych Bulletin 2015; 39, 288-290
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Conflict of interest: Conflicts of Interest: Dr Farooq has developed an app called QDoc to assist self-management in psychiatric disorders

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Mobile telephone apps first need data security and efficacy

John Torous, Psychiatrist, Brigham and Women's Hospital. Department of Psychiatry. Harvard Medical School. Boston. MA
21 December 2015

The recent article “Mobile telephone apps in mental health practice: uses, opportunities and challenges” highlights many potential benefits of smartphone apps for mental health but also inadvertently demonstrates the challenges beyond what the authors may have realised. The paper refers readers to the NHS app library (http://apps.nhs.uk) when discussing psychological apps. However, in recent months the NHS app library has been closed amid serious concerns that apps featured on the site may not be clinically effective (1) and may suffer from both security and privacy flaws that left patient data exposed (2). This rapid change in the smartphone app landscape came suddenly and rapidly – and demonstrates how much we still do not know about using this technology for healthcare. What we do know is that a firm foundation in privacy, security, and efficacy are critical. Just as we demand clinical evidence and safety data when considering a new medication – we should also demand the same high standards when considering a new app. The potential of smartphone apps for mental health is as bright as the authors allude to, but the challenges are turning out to also be greater than many realised.



References:



1. Leigh S, Flatt S. App-based psychological interventions: friend or foe?. Evid Based Ment Health. 2015;18(4):97-9.



2. Wicks P, Chiauzzi E. 'Trust but verify' - five approaches to ensure safe medical apps. BMC Med. 2015;13:205.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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