Mobile App Tools for Identifying and Managing Mental Health Disorders in Primary Care

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Mental health apps are intriguing yet challenging tools for addressing barriers to treatment in primary care. In the current review, we seek to assist primary care professionals with evaluating and integrating mental health apps into practice. We briefly summarize two leading frameworks for evaluating mental health apps and conduct a systematic review of mental health apps across a variety of areas commonly encountered in primary care.

Recent Findings

Existing frameworks can guide professionals and patients through the process of identifying apps and evaluating dimensions such as privacy and security, credibility, and user experience. For specific apps, several problem areas appear to have relatively more scientific evaluation in the current app landscape, including PTSD, smoking, and alcohol use. Other areas such as eating disorders not only lack evaluation, but contain a significant subset of apps providing potentially harmful advice.

Summary

Overall, individuals seeking mental health apps will likely encounter strengths such as symptom-tracking and psychoeducational components, while encountering common weaknesses such as insufficient privacy settings and little integration of empirically supported techniques. While mental health apps may have more promise than ever, significant barriers to finding functional, usable, effective apps remain for health professionals and patients alike.

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Correspondence to Joshua C. Magee PhD.

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Joshua Magee reports grant K23DA037320 from National Institutes of Health supporting his work on the study. Sarah Adut declares that she has no conflict of interest. Kevin Brazill declares that he has no conflict of interest. Stephen Warnick declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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Magee, J.C., Adut, S., Brazill, K. et al. Mobile App Tools for Identifying and Managing Mental Health Disorders in Primary Care. Curr Treat Options Psych 5, 345–362 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40501-018-0154-0

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Keywords

  • Apps
  • Smartphone
  • Mobile
  • Mental
  • Primary care
  • Technology