Researchers constructed an online assessment tool to best match the most efficient mental health apps

With close to 50 million Americans suffering from a mental condition, health care providers have turned to smartphone apps. Considered to be a cost-effective option by some, there are now thousands of mental health apps determined to improve well-being, but some may not be subject to FDA oversight.

In a recent report, released by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, researchers developed a mental health app assessment tool to best guide users on the most efficient options for them to download. The study was published in npj Digital Medicine.

“The absence of regulatory oversight leaves the app stores’ user reviews and rankings as the major sources of information for consumers interested in mental health apps,” according to John Torous, co-author of the study.

“To fill that void, we developed a database of mental health apps that is grounded in principles of medical ethics. Rather than focusing on what is the ‘best’ app we aim to help people find one that is the ‘best match” through guiding them through informed decision making.”

The recently developed online assessment tool is in its beta stage. The tool works by recommending specific apps through a 105-question interactive process, taking into account an app’s safety, privacy risks, and usability.

“While the database has yet to be published and crowdsourced, initial internal testing demonstrated excellent interrater reliability. The database proposed here introduces a public and interactive approach to data collection that is guided by the APA model,” the findings state.

“The published product enables users to sort through the many mobile health apps and filter them according to individual preferences and priorities, making the ever-growing health app market more navigable.”

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