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Clinicians and academics should engage users when reviewing mental health apps, study finds

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Study: Pro­fes­sion­al, con­sumer opin­ions dif­fer on men­tal health app qual­i­ty (Mobi­Health News):

Researchers found low agree­ment between pro­fes­sion­als’ and con­sumers’ reviews of men­tal health apps.

The study, pub­lished in JMIR, assessed 11 men­tal health apps using web sur­veys admin­is­tered between Decem­ber 2020 and April 2021. The apps assessed includ­ed Breethe, Calm, Head­space, Insight Timer Med­i­ta­tion, Mind­Doc, Mind­Shift, Reflect­ly, Remente, San­vel­lo, Self-Help for Anx­i­ety and Woebot.

Over­all, researchers found more than half of the app rat­ings showed dis­agree­ment between the study par­tic­i­pants and the pro­fes­sion­al rat­ings … One of the most impor­tant themes dis­cussed by the study par­tic­i­pants was cost, as many were frus­trat­ed when they reached a pay­wall or need­ed to pay for pre­mi­um con­tent. They also val­ued the abil­i­ty to track and mea­sure their progress as well as access to edu­ca­tion­al con­tent, like infor­ma­tion on cop­ing mech­a­nisms or symp­toms … The high­est num­ber of par­tic­i­pant neg­a­tives was for the domain ‘dif­fi­cul­ties of use,’ sug­gest­ing that cur­rent pro­fes­sion­al rat­ings are over­es­ti­mat­ing the ease with which the apps can be used.

The Study:

Com­par­ing Pro­fes­sion­al and Con­sumer Rat­ings of Men­tal Health Apps: Mixed Meth­ods Study (JMIR For­ma­tive Research). From the abstract:

  • Back­ground: As the num­ber of men­tal health apps has grown, increas­ing efforts have been focused on estab­lish­ing qual­i­ty tai­lored reviews. These reviews pri­or­i­tize clin­i­cian and aca­d­e­m­ic views rather than the views of those who use them, par­tic­u­lar­ly those with lived expe­ri­ences of men­tal health problems…
  • Objec­tive: This study aimed to under­stand the opin­ions of peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems on men­tal health apps and how they dif­fer from estab­lished rat­ings by professionals.
  • Results: We found low agree­ment between the par­tic­i­pants’ and pro­fes­sion­als’ rat­ings. More than half of the app rat­ings showed dis­agree­ment between par­tic­i­pants and pro­fes­sion­als … Par­tic­i­pants par­tic­u­lar­ly val­ued cer­tain aspects of men­tal health apps, which appear to be over­looked by pro­fes­sion­al review­ers. These includ­ed func­tions such as the abil­i­ty to track and mea­sure men­tal health and pro­vid­ing gen­er­al men­tal health edu­ca­tion. The cost of apps was among the most impor­tant fac­tors for par­tic­i­pants. Although this is already con­sid­ered by pro­fes­sion­als, this infor­ma­tion is not always eas­i­ly accessible.

The Study in Context:


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