Mental health apps demand clinical verification, say experts

A trio of experts believe mental health apps should be backed up by some form of clinical evidence before being released to consumers.

One of the experts, John Torous, a senior psychiatry resident and clinical fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told Fast Company there is funding and research support to drive app verification.

"How would you react if your doctor told you the medication she is recommending for your life-threatening infection has never been actually tested, studied, or evaluated? The foundation of healthcare is trust. So why should the standard be any different for mental health technologies, like smartphone apps that claim to offer either diagnostic or therapeutic guidance?" Torous said.

A recent Journal of the American Medical Association report states the number of viable, safe and beneficial mHealth apps is a big unknown; many apps could potentially be problematic for users and caregivers. However, some see apps as game changers in mental health care. "The question isn't whether or not this technology is going to be used in healthcare and monitoring individuals with psychiatric illnesses," University of Michigan psychiatrist Melvin McInnis told Wired in 2014. "The question is really: How?"

Iodine CEO and Co-Founder Thomas Goetz also told Fast Company that research for validation is a big hurdle, but there are solutions.

"This doesn't mean doing away with proper validation studies that vet mobile apps for real effectiveness," he states, adding, "and we shouldn't expect software to stand still for one or two years while academic validation works its way through review and publication."

For more information:
- read the Fast Company article

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JAMA: Too many mHealth apps, too little verification

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