Currently, the usage of mHealth solutions -mostly referring to Smartphone applications- to support face-to-face treatment of mental health problems is increasing. Patients with different mental health issues use a large number of mobile applications now that help them keep in touch with health professionals, self-management of their disease and promotion of healthy habits, diagnosis and additional support to standard psychological treatment.
The importance of these apps for patients to achieve a better adherence to psychological treatment and improve their quality of life and health has been supported by many studies. In addition, low motivation to change and stigma that patients with mental issues may feel are associated with face-to-face psychological treatment makes mHealth apps an effective complementary tool, given that they make treatment more engaging, interactive and personalised. In addition, mobile apps can enhance the quality and quantity of available information that clinicians have at their disposal to guide treatment, as they are able to systematically track relevant clinical data in real time.
In conclusion, as a result of the widespread availability of mHealth solutions and their ability to deliver self-directed, personalised and customised psychological interventions, mitigating at the same time, anonymity and privacy concerns, the treatment of mental health is likely to change markedly in a therapeutical context over the next 10-20 years.
While growth in mHealth solutions for mental health has been rapid, advances in the existing evaluation frameworks are yet to be seen. As a result, a huge number of health apps are widely available to the general healthcare public without possessing best-practice guidelines and certifications or a standardised validation process to assess their long-term cost benefits.
In order to update the research evidence with respect to the use of mHealth solutions for the treatment of patients with a specific and recurrent mental health problem, that is to say eating disorders, and to evaluate the available interventions on the basis of their methodological quality, Open Evidence is conducting a systematic review of the literature that will be published shortly in a peer-reviewed journal.
World Health Organization (2011). New horizons for health through mobile technologies. http://www.who.int/goe/publications/goe_mhealth_web.pdf
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Kaplan & Stone (2013). Bringing the laboratory and clinic to the community: mobile technologies for health promotion and disease prevention. Annual review of psychology, 64, 471-98.
Tomlinson, Rotheram-Borus, Swartz, & Tsai (2013). Scaling up mHealth: where is the evidence? PLoS Medicine, 10(2), e1001382.
Darcy & Lock (2017). Using Technology to Improve Treatment Outcomes for Children and Adolescents with Eating Disorders. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 26(1), 33-42.