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Although apps are increasingly being used to support the diagnosis, treatment and management of mental illness, there is no single means through which costs associated with mental apps are being reimbursed. Furthermore, different apps are amenable to different means of reimbursement as not all apps generate value in the same way.
To provide insights into how apps are currently generating value and being reimbursed across the world, with a particular focus on the situation in the USA.
An international team performed secondary research on how apps are being used and on common pathways to remuneration.
The uses of apps today and in the future are reviewed, the nature of the value delivered by apps is summarised and an overview of app reimbursement in the USA and other countries is provided. Recommendations regarding how payments might be made for apps in the future are discussed.
Currently, apps are being reimbursed through channels with other original purposes. There may be a need to develop an app-specific channel for reimbursement which is analogous to the channels used for devices, drugs and laboratory tests.
There are tens of thousands of mental health-related apps available today – representing extreme duplication in this digital age. Instead of a plethora of apps, there is a need for a few that meet the needs of many. Focusing on transparency and free sharing of software, we argue that a collaborative approach towards apps can advance care through creating customisable and future proofed digital tools that allow all stakeholders to engage in their design and use.
User experience (UX) plays a key role in uptake and usage of mental health smartphone interventions, yet remains underinvestigated. This review aimed to characterize and compare UX evaluation approaches that have been applied in this specific context, and to identify implications for research and practice.
A narrative review was conducted of UX-themed studies published in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Scopus up to February 2019. Eligible studies reported on data reflecting users' interactions with a smartphone intervention for any mental health condition. Studies were categorized into “situated” versus “construct-based” methods according to whether or not an established UX construct was used to acquire and analyze data.
Situated approaches used bespoke UX metrics, including quantitative measures of usage and performance, as well as grounded interview data. Construct-based approaches such as assessments of usability and acceptability were based on conceptual frameworks, with methodologically stronger versions featuring construct definitions, validated measurement tools, and an ability to compare data across studies. Constructs and measures were sometimes combined to form bespoke construct-based approaches.
Both situated and construct-based UX data may provide benefits during design and implementation of a mental health smartphone intervention by helping to clarify the needs of users and the impact of new features. Notable however was the omission of UX methods, such as split testing. Future research should consider these unaddressed methods, aim to improve the rigor of UX assessment, integrate their use alongside clinical outcomes, and explore UX assessment of more complex, adaptive interventions.
Improving understanding of and outcomes for early-course psychosis (ECP) is a recognised global mental health priority. We argue digital health technologies can advance care for ECP by better accounting for clinical heterogeneity, offering better predictive models, increasing access to early interventions and enhancing existing treatment options.
Declaration of interest
L.M.T. owns shares in Safari Health Inc – a digital health technology company.
As mental healthcare expands to smartphone apps and other technologies that may offer therapeutic interventions without a therapist involved, it is important to assess the impact of non-traditional therapeutic relationships.
To determine if there were any meaningful data regarding the digital therapeutic alliance in smartphone interventions for serious mental illnesses.
A literature search was conducted in four databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase and Web of Science).
There were five studies that discuss the therapeutic alliance when a mobile application intervention is involved in therapy. However, in none of the studies was the digital therapeutic alliance the primary outcome. The studies looked at different mental health conditions, had different duration of technology use and used different methods for assessing the therapeutic alliance.
Assessing and optimising the digital therapeutic alliance holds the potential to make tools such as smartphone apps more effective and improve adherence to their use. However, the heterogeneous nature of the five studies we identified make it challenging to draw conclusions at this time. A measure is required to evaluate the digital therapeutic alliance.
The potential of digital health tools such as smartphones and sensors to increase access to and enhance delivery of healthcare is well known. However, a lack of regulation and delineation between those technologies seeking to offer direct clinical diagnostics and treatments and those involving clinical care enhancements or direct-to-consumer resources has led to patient and clinician confusion about the appropriate use and role of digital health. Here, we propose that creating boundaries and better defining the scope of digital health technology will advance the field through matching the right use cases with the right tools. We further propose that ethical clinicians, as stewards of standard of care, are well suited to uphold these boundaries and to safeguard best practices in digital health.
Declaration of interest
H.H. is an employee of Verily Life Sciences and owns equity in this company. The views expressed here are those of the authors and are not official views of Verily Life Sciences.