Mental health monitoring via mobile apps welcomed by most psych outpatients

Mobile applications that monitor mental health and mood would be welcomed by most psychiatric outpatients, according to a survey of 100 patients at a Massachusetts clinic.

The survey found that 70 percent of patients own a smartphone and more than 50 percent would agree to download a mobile app that keeps track of their mood. The survey was conducted by John Torous and his research team at Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston, according to an article about the study in Medscape.

Torous said he decided to conduct the research after being told that psychiatric patients are unlikely to own smartphones or not likely to use them to monitor mental health, the article explains.

A concern with mental health-related apps is the frequency of use. Adam Powell, president of Boston-based consulting firm Payer+Provider Syndicate, tells Medscape that mobile apps have a short shelf life and people often stop using them once the novelty wears off.

Powell expands: "The [Torous] study does not provide any information about actual uptake or persistence of use ... For applications that perform longitudinal functions like mood tracking to be useful, they must be used on a regular basis."

In addition, for these apps to work within the mHealth space, they need to be secure because they contain sensitive patient information, Powell opines.

This research joins a growing number of studies focused on e-mental health. Another Medscape article cites a literature review that indicated using mental health apps--in addition to other forms of e-care--offers "lower cost, greater accessibility and interactivity, the flexibility to provide greater standardization and personalization and increased patient engagement."

Unfortunately, there is a lack of "hard metrics" when determining success of mobile mental health apps, says Stacey Chang, director of health and wellness at design and innovation consulting firm IDEO. In an interview with iMedicalApps, Chang explains: "You can measure glucose, or blood pressure. But because [mental health] is less quantifiable, you can't claim value [was added financially in a business sense]."

For more:
- read Brooks' article and Brauser's article on Medscape (reg. req.)
- read Chan's article on iMedicalApps

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