Standards and principles for evaluating mental health apps

Standards and principles for evaluating mental health apps

This post was originally published on the National Elf Service blog. You can find it here. A new ‘Insights’ piece has just been published in World Psychiatry (the Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association) by John Torous et al, in which they seek to propose a consensus for a set of standards and principles for the evaluation of mental health apps (Torous et al, 2019). So why is this consensus piece so timely? As the authors note, whilst there are over 10,000 mental health apps available to download, there are few resources available to help users (people accessing mental health services, practitioners and organisations) evaluate the quality and suitability of these tools and services. It is currently not a straightforward task for users to appraise mental health apps; and how can practitioners confidently recommend digital mental health tools to the people they support, without clarity on minimum standards? It is comparatively easy to design and develop a mobile app, hence their proliferation in the marketplace, but creating a tool that is safeand efficacious is a more significant challenge. Recommendations Through deliberation with experts in the field, the authors have identified four key topic areas where they argue minimum standards should be articulated and met. Their recommendations are summarised below: 1. Data safety and privacy Data storage, use and sharing practices should fulfil healthcare standards for handling patient health information dataStandards must be transparent to the userThe end user must have the option to “opt out” of sharing their informationAny language regarding data storage, use and sharing must be written at a maximum of a 6th grade (year 7 in England) reading levelTechnical security reviews and data audits are necessary to guarantee that apps follow the standards they set out...