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Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Unregulated New Technology: The Science of Mental Health Apps

 Unregulated New Technology: The Science of Mental Health Apps

 designed to similarly increase the psychological well-being of users have proliferated in recent years. Some are general health apps that motivate people to meditate or practice yoga, while others provide targeted therapies for specific mental illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or bipolar disorder. Each of these technologies has the potential to reach people who may lack access to mental health care.

At the start of the pandemic, mental health professionals struggled to meet the increasing demand for their services. a Survey of adults who received such services It revealed that 17.7 million Americans experienced delayed or canceled appointments in 2020. Although demand has since fallen slightly, access to services remains a major problem: Last year, more than 26 million Americans fell ill. My mind gone untreated.

While traditional healers must go through a licensing process, there is no equivalent screening process for mental health applications. “It’s the Wild West out there. The soil is fertile for all kinds of actors to play in the sandbox,” says Smesha Agarwal, associate professor of digital health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In May, Agarwal and her colleagues published an assessment Mental health applications framework. It is one of the few proposed systems for sorting the good from the bad. But for now, users will have to decide for themselves.

questionable standards

The most widely used mental health apps, such as calm or Moodfittargeting a wide audience; It’s designed to help anyone feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. The approach combines wellness exercises with gamification. In-app goals and rewards motivate users to deal with negative emotions through healthy outlets.

Agarwal explains that apps like this pose little direct risk to users. This is because the behaviors they promote are healthy for most people, regardless of mental state. However, keep in mind that some apps may not be effective in what you plan to do. “It’s missing a lot in terms of UI and general usability,” she says. “Most of them do not use behavior-change modalities or evidence-based treatment protocols.”

While the applications are questionable treatment modalities for people with mental illnesses, studies have shown that some of them can have a positive effect on the general population. paper 2018 I found it using a meditation app emptiness Reducing stress and irritability among a random sample of healthy adults.

Unfortunately, many wellness apps have an issue with data security. a Report by developer Mozilla It examined 32 popular mental health apps and designated 28 as “privacy not included”. Some of these apps simply had poor security measures, while others included clauses in their privacy policy that allowed them to sell users’ data to third parties.

You are dealing with a population with psychological challenges. “Privacy and security data are hardly understandable even for someone who is fully functional,” Agarwal says. At best, user data can be used to create targeted ads on other websites. At worst, a security breach could give hackers access to personal health and financial information.

equilibrium law

While apps like Calm and Headspace target low-risk populations, many apps have been developed as potential treatment tools for populations at higher risk – people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. However, up to this point, few of these designs have made it past clinical trials. The ones you do often Having difficulty expanding.

“I think there are two big types of apps,” says David Packer, clinical psychologist and founder of the app. the mood. “One is a research-focused application that is meticulously developed by academics. Then they have no idea how to run the business after they run out of scholarship money.” The second type, he says, is organized by earnings and collects user data like any other app.

When Bakker founded MoodMission in 2015, he hoped to avoid some of the risks of other mental health apps by running the company on a not-for-profit model. The app aims to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety by suggesting a combination of Cognitive behavioral therapy and general wellness exercises for users. In 2019, Packer and colleagues conducted a randomized control experiment Which showed that the app was successful in helping people with depression develop effective coping mechanisms. And unlike other research-backed apps, MoodMission has been downloaded over 100,000 times on Android and Apple devices.

Although MoodMission’s combination of rigorous research and popularity is uncommon among current mental health applications, it is evidence that an organization with the right mission can develop something that is effective and accessible.

future frameworks

Now, the crux of the matter is how to make consumers aware of what they are looking for. “You can regulate providers, but you can’t regulate patients,” Agarwal says.

Ultimately, she hopes, the well-established framework for evaluating mental health applications will “empower consumers and clinical providers with information.” While app seekers must now delve into blogs and user reviews to make a decision, the seal of approval from the certification organization may one day tell us which apps are safe and effective. It’s the same model that enables shoppers to choose organic or fair trade products at the grocery store.

In the meantime, innovators will continue to develop the technology that powers these applications. Bakker envisions a futuristic app that uses Artificial intelligence To assist clinicians in selecting therapeutic interventions for mental health patients. It’s a vision shared by tech companies like limbic.

“This way, we can do the work of connecting with someone on a personal level, and at the end of the session I can go to my tablet and see an 86 percent chance that a particular approach will work well for that person,” Packer says. “As a psych.

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