Health Apps
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2021 ◽  
Sophie Eis ◽  
Oriol Solà-Morales ◽  
Andrea Duarte-Díaz ◽  
Josep Vidal-Alaball ◽  
Lilisbeth Perestelo-Perez ◽  

BACKGROUND There are thousands of health apps available, including for mood disorders. However, their access is unstructured, and most are never download nor used. Their outcomes are rarely systematically measured and therefore effectiveness is disputed, even potentially damaging. The COVID-19 pandemic has posed and continues to pose a significant burden on population mental health, yet it has also given rise to rapid eHealth development. However, despite increasing reliance on eHealth solutions, major knowledge gaps on their utility and effectiveness persist. OBJECTIVE The main objective of this work was to explore and characterize the current landscape of mobile applications available to treat mood disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia. METHODS We developed a tool that makes both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store searchable using keywords and that facilitates the extraction of basic app information of the search results. All app results were filtered using various inclusion and exclusion criteria. We characterised all resultant applications according to their technical details. Furthermore, we searched for scientific publications on each app’s website and PubMed, to understand whether any of the apps were supported by any type of scientific evidence on their acceptability, validation, use, effectiveness, etc. RESULTS Thirty apps were identified that fit the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The literature search yielded 27 publications related to the apps. However, these did not exclusively concern mood disorders. 6 were randomised studies and the rest included a protocol, pilot-, feasibility, case-, or qualitative studies, among others. The majority of studies were conducted on relatively small scales and 9 of the 27 studies did not explicitly study the effects of mobile application use on mental wellbeing. CONCLUSIONS While there exists a wealth of mobile applications aimed at the treatment of mental health disorders, including mood disorders, this study has shown that only a handful of these are backed by robust scientific evidence. This result uncovers a need for further clinically-oriented and systematic validation and testing of such apps.

2021 ◽  
Xiaoqian Wu ◽  
Lin Xu ◽  
PengFei Li ◽  
TingTing Tang ◽  
Cheng Huang

BACKGROUND Mental disorders impose varying degrees of burden on patients and their surroundings. However, people are reluctant to take the initiative to seek mental health services because of the uneven distribution of resources and stigmatization. Thus, mobile apps are considered an effective way to eliminate these obstacles and improve mental health awareness. OBJECTIVE This study aimed to evaluate the quality, function, privacy measures, and evidence-based and professional background of multipurpose mental health apps in Chinese commercial app stores. METHODS A systematic search was conducted on iOS and Android platforms in China to identify multipurpose mental health apps. Two independent reviewers evaluated the identified mobile apps using Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS). Each app was downloaded, and the general characteristics, privacy and security measures, development background, and functional characteristics of each app were evaluated. RESULTS A total of 40 apps were analyzed, of which 35 apps (87.5%) were developed by companies and 33 apps (82.5%) provided links to access the privacy policy; 52.5% did not mention the involvement of relevant professionals or the guidance of scientific basis in the app development process. The main built-in functions of these apps include psychological education (38/40, 95%), self-assessment (34/40, 85%), and counseling (33/40, 83%). The overall quality average MARS score of the 40 apps was 3.53 (standard deviation 0.39), and the total score was between 2.96 and 4.30. The total score of MARS was significantly positively correlated with the scores of each subscale (r = 0.62–0.88; P <.001). However, the user score of the app market was not significantly correlated with the total score of MARS (r = 0.23; P =.19). CONCLUSIONS The quality of multipurpose mental health apps in China’s main app market is generally good and provides various functional combinations. However, health professionals are less involved in the development of these apps, and the privacy protection policy of the apps also needs to be described in more detail. This study provides a reference for the development of multipurpose mental health apps.

2021 ◽  
pp. 001789692110493
Peter Clarke ◽  
Deborah Neffa-Creech ◽  
Susan H Evans

Objective: Health apps for smartphones have largely overlooked one means of expanding effectiveness: namely, inviting access by secondary app users who can contribute positively to primary users’ lives. We report on outcomes from field testing a cooking app where dissemination included both mothers who were household cooks (primary users) and their children (secondary users). Setting and Method: The app, VeggieBook, aimed to increase the use of vegetables in meals and snacks by household cooks. Clients at 15 community pantries were randomly assigned to receive or not receive the app. The same vegetables were supplied to all participants. In each family in the experimental group, the mothers and a 9- to 14-year-old child were each given their own portal into the app. Interviews before, during and after the project and electronic capture of app use measured key variables. The app’s impact on children was gauged by whether or not they became involved in helping prepare family dinners. Results: Availability of VeggieBook increased children’s collaboration with their mothers, even though the app contained scant content urging this. Collaboration occurred most often in families where electronic media (television, phones, earbud devices) did not intrude on socialising during meals, and there were opportunities to acknowledge children’s kitchen contributions. Conclusion: Implications are identified for the creation of other health apps intended for disease prevention and management. Secondary users (spouses, home caregivers, children and friends) could also be targeted to use apps meant for primary users (people at-risk for illness or patients), thereby building collective action towards improving health.

2021 ◽  
Vol 4 (1) ◽  
Maria Cucciniello ◽  
Francesco Petracca ◽  
Oriana Ciani ◽  
Rosanna Tarricone

AbstractCOVID-19 pandemic challenges have accelerated the reliance on digital health fuelling the expanded incorporation of mobile apps into healthcare services, particularly for the management of long-term conditions such as chronic diseases (CDs). However, the impact of health apps on outcomes for CD remains unclear, potentially owing to both the poor adoption of formal development standards in the design process and the methodological quality of studies. A systematic search of randomised trials was performed on Medline, ScienceDirect, the Cochrane Library and Scopus to provide a comprehensive outlook and review the impact of health apps on CD. We identified 69 studies on diabetes (n = 29), cardiovascular diseases (n = 13), chronic respiratory diseases (n = 13), cancer (n = 10) or their combinations (n = 4). The apps rarely adopted developmental factors in the design stage, with only around one-third of studies reporting user or healthcare professional engagement. Apps differed significantly in content, with a median of eight behaviour change techniques adopted, most frequently pertaining to the ‘Feedback and monitoring’ (91%) and ‘Shaping knowledge’ (72%) categories. As for the study methodologies, all studies adopted a traditional randomised control trial (RCT) design, with relatively short follow-ups and limited sample sizes. Findings were not significant for the majority of studies across all CD, with most RCTs revealing a high risk of bias. To support the adoption of apps for CD management, this review reinforces the need for more robust development and appropriate study characteristics to sustain evidence generation and elucidate whether study results reflect the true benefits of apps or a biased estimate due to unsuitable designs.

Eunhye Kim ◽  
Semi Han

Promoting healthy behavior among seniors is important in reducing the burden of care and healthcare expenses in a rapidly aging society. Health apps can play an important role in health promotion for older adults, but the level of user retention in health apps is low. To increase continued health app use among older adults, this study examined the factors influencing older users’ continuance intentions to use health apps. The research model was developed based on the social cognitive theory of health behavior, which integrates cognitive, environmental, and behavioral perspectives. To test the research model, an anonymous online survey was conducted among respondents aged 60 to 79 years who were using health apps. The measurement items in the questionnaire were developed based on validated scales from the literature. A total of 250 samples were analyzed. The assessment of the measurement model indicates that the reliability and validity of the items are satisfactory. The results of testing the structural model illustrate the determinants of health app continuance intention: health technology self-efficacy, self-evaluative outcome expectations, self-regulation, and privacy risk. The interrelationships among determinants are also investigated. Theoretical and practical implications are suggested to encourage older adults’ continued health app use and promote their health behavior over the long term.

2021 ◽  
pp. 103990
Giovanni Ramos ◽  
Carolyn Ponting ◽  
Jerome P. Labao ◽  
Kunmi Sobowale

Vicente Javier Clemente-Suárez ◽  
Marina Begoña Martínez-González ◽  
Juan Camilo Benitez-Agudelo ◽  
Eduardo Navarro-Jiménez ◽  
Ana Isabel Beltran-Velasco ◽  

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of the worldwide population. Citizens suffer the social, economic, physiological, and psychological effects of this pandemic. Primary sources, scientific articles, and secondary bibliographic indexes, databases, and web pages were used for a consensus critical review. The method was a narrative review of the available literature to summarize the existing literature addressing mental health concerns and stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The main search engines used in the present research were PubMed, SciELO, and Google Scholar. We found the pandemic has had a direct impact on psychopathologies such as anxiety, increasing its ratios, and depression. Other syndromes such as burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder have increased with the pandemic, showing a larger incidence among medical personnel. Moreover, eating disorders and violence have also increased. Public authorities must prepare healthcare systems for increasing incidences of mental pathologies. Mental health apps are one of the tools that can be used to reach the general population.

Jenny Luo ◽  
Shelley White-Means

Health disparities cause a higher rate of diabetes development in poor and minority groups and also limit the care these people receive. Smartphone applications (apps) may be a low-cost, accessible resource to patients with diabetes who experience barriers to traditional health care. Currently, little is known about using health apps to help underserved patients in the United States. This study aimed to investigate the willingness to use diabetes apps in patients with limited access to primary care providers. Fifteen personal interviews were collected and analyzed according to the interpretative phenomenological analysis framework. The interviews produced three overall themes: (1) Despite having little previous knowledge about health apps, patients were all willing to try at least one diabetes-related app; (2) app functions should be individualized to each patient’s needs for maximum benefit; and (3) barriers to app use were varied but commonly included knowledge and technological challenges and security issues. Underserved patients with diabetes expressed a willingness to try health apps, despite limited experience with the technology. Choosing apps individualized to each patient’s needs, instead of a blanket multifunctional app, would provide the greatest benefit for patient-driven diabetes management. Smartphone apps may be a feasible, low-cost resource for patients with limited access to traditional healthcare.

2022 ◽  
Vol 34 (4) ◽  
pp. 1-22
Jinjin Song ◽  
Yan Li ◽  
Xitong Guo ◽  
Kathy Ning Shen ◽  
Xiaofeng Ju

As M-Health apps become more popular, users can access more mobile health information (MHI) through these platforms. Yet one preeminent question among both researchers and practitioners is how to bridge the gap between simply providing MHI and persuading users to buy into the MHI for health self-management. To solve this challenge, this study extends the Elaboration Likelihood Model to explore how to make MHI advice persuasive by identifying the important central and peripheral cues of MHI under individual difference. The proposed research model was validated through a survey. The results confirm that (1) both information matching and platform credibility, as central and peripheral cues, respectively, have significant positive effects on attitudes toward MHI, but only information matching could directly affect health behavior changes; (2) health concern significantly moderates the link between information matching and cognitive attitude and only marginally moderates the link between platform credibility and attitudes. Theoretical and practical implications are also discussed.

Matthias Domhardt ◽  
Eva-Maria Messner ◽  
Anna-Sophia Eder ◽  
Sophie Engler ◽  
Lasse B. Sander ◽  

Abstract Background The access to empirically-supported treatments for common mental disorders in children and adolescents is often limited. Mental health apps might extend service supplies, as they are deemed to be cost-efficient, scalable and appealing for youth. However, little is known about the quality of available apps. Therefore, we aimed to systematically evaluate current mobile-based interventions for pediatric anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Methods Systematic searches were conducted in Google Play Store and Apple App Store to identify relevant apps. To be eligible for inclusion, apps needed to be: (1) designed to target either anxiety, depression or PTSD in youth (0–18 years); (2) developed for children, adolescents or caregivers; (3) provided in English or German; (4) operative after download. The quality of eligible apps was assessed with two standardized rating systems (i.e., Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) and ENLIGHT) independently by two reviewers. Results Overall, the searches revealed 3806 apps, with 15 mental health apps (0.39%) fulfilling our inclusion criteria. The mean overall scores suggested a moderate app quality (MARS: M = 3.59, SD = 0.50; ENLIGHT: M = 3.22, SD = 0.73). Moreover, only one app was evaluated in an RCT. The correlation of both rating scales was high (r = .936; p < .001), whereas no significant correlations were found between rating scales and user ratings (p > .05). Conclusions Our results point to a rather poor overall app quality, and indicate an absence of scientific-driven development and lack of methodologically sound evaluation of apps. Thus, future high-quality research is required, both in terms of theoretically informed intervention development and assessment of mental health apps in RCTs. Furthermore, institutionalized best-practices that provide central information on different aspects of apps (e.g., effectiveness, safety, and data security) for patients, caregivers, stakeholders and mental health professionals are urgently needed.

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