The American Psychiatric Association (APA) have launched a tool to help its members and their patients evaluate mental health apps.
Their approach to rating mental health apps is grounded in the belief that any decision between a clinician and patient is a personal decision based on many factors, for which there is rarely a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
It highlights that the information necessary to make the best decision about selecting an app is not what psychiatrists and mental health clinicians are classically taught.
The goal of a the hierarchical rating system used is to make APA members aware of very important information that should be considered when picking an app, that is not exactly the same as the information used to judge a medication or therapy.
The foundation of the evaluation model rests in the maxims of ‘do no harm’ as well as a risk-benefit analysis. The four areas comprising the model (beyond gathering basic background information) are:
- Evidence (i.e., effectiveness)
- Ease of Use
These four areas are presented in an ordered manner so that if Privacy/Safety is unsatisfactory, then it is not necessary to consider the others, and therefore the app should probably not be used.
While a better app will meet more criteria at each step of the model, there is no minimum or maximum number of levels necessary for an app to be considered “good” or “useful”.
There may be cases where an app fills few levels but a clinician and patient still want to use it — and in that case the hierarchical model is useful as it highlights important features of apps about which the patient should be aware when using them.
On the other hand, an app that satisfies criteria in all four steps of the model may also be one that a clinician patient decide not to use, and in this case the model helps ensure an informed decision based on the best available information.
You can find out more information and access the evaluation tool on the APA website.