With over 10,000 mental health mobile apps available for download1, choosing an app suitable for a patient’s needs is becoming increasingly challenging. The app selection process is further complicated by continual app updates, evolving scientific evidence, and privacy and usability concerns2. A common reliance2 on star rating systems and user reviews to choose apps can present additional concerns, as rating systems have been shown to be misleading3.
We collaborated with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to build an App Evaluation Model and create a database at mindapps.org4 to help users find a mental health app that best suits their clinical needs. We work with app raters to regularly review app stores, rate mental health apps in our database, and present findings during regularly scheduled webinars to identify trends and areas for improvement. Each app in the database is rated on 105 objective questions based on the APA’s App Evaluation Model5, which considers the factors Accessibility, Privacy & Security, Clinical Foundation, Engagement Style, and Interoperability. Users can select among 87 different filters within the database, such as whether the app is free of cost and has supporting evidence from research studies. These filterable selections allow users to make an informed and personalized choice.
With over 600 objectively rated mental health apps now available in our database, we have created a scalable mobile health resource for patients and clinicians navigating the burdensome task of choosing a mental health app that suits their individual needs. Using this model, we have reframed the mental health app evaluation and selection process away from choosing the highest rated app and towards making informed decisions based on clinically relevant criteria2.
Our mental health app evaluation database aims to enhance the app rating system and make it actionable for users. Future implications include enhancing and sharing education regarding the efficacy and safety of mental health apps as well as expanding the current database to create a more exhaustive list of objectively evaluated mental health apps.