Digital Health Applications for Mental Health Disorders

Digital Health Applications for Mental Health Disorders

1. What is the decision or change you are facing or struggling with where a summary of the evidence would be helpful?

The means for consumers to evaluate digital health applications for mental health disorders. Americans suffering from behavioral health conditions, but in particular consumers who have mild behavioral health and chronic medical conditions but may not seek care due to stigma, provider shortages, or other accessibility issues. AHRQ should focus an evidence review on strategies to help evaluate and select a health app that will help them with their mental health conditions or concerns. These strategies should include how to assess criteria such as effectiveness, accessibility, ease of use, privacy, and security. Primary outcomes should include: primarily medication adherence statistics; secondarily, cost savings, improved care, reduced hospitalizations, avoidance of complications, and improved patient satisfaction.

2. Why are you struggling with this issue?

CHI actively advocates for the use of connected health technologies to be used in preventing and treating diseases. We believe that existing evidence supports the use of connected health tech offers a critical means to prevent and treat this suffering, but continue to hear from some U.S. policymakers that they need to understand, on a granular and statistics basis, the ability of digital health tools to be a means of transforming healthcare. Access to mental health is a key policy issue, and digital tools for this particular healthcare condition will improve access while reducing barriers caused by stigma but only if consumers feel these tools are safe, secure, and private. An AHRQ evidence report on existing or potential tools to evaluate apps for mental health would be of great utility to patients, consumers, and healthcare stakeholders.

3. What do you want to see changed? How will you know that your issue is improving or has been addressed?

There has been increased interest in the utility of smartphone applications for people with mood disorders. According to the World Health Organization, the gap between the need for mental disorder treatment and accessibility is rising, where roughly 35-50% of people needing treatment are not able to receive it. Smartphone utilization is common, with one study reporting 68% of Americans owning one. Rates of ownership are also high with ethnic minorities and low-income populations with 68% of black people, 64% of Latinx, and 52% of people with an annual income below $32,000.  Some of these populations also generally suffer higher rates of mental health care disparities. As of 2018, one study reported more than 250,000 mHealth applications for mental health available for download with more than half of mobile phone users reporting downloading a mHealth app.

4. When do you need the evidence report?

Mon, 06/01/2020

5. What will you do with the evidence report?

CHI would use this report to support the use of connected health innovations across public and private systems, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. This evidence report's impact, coming from AHRQ, would be extremely impactful. We would share public links to the report and cite it in our own written and spoken advocacy across any appropriate fora.

(Optional) About You

What is your role or perspective? Not-for-profit trade association

If you are you making a suggestion on behalf of an organization, please state the name of the organization: Connected Health Initiative

May we contact you if we have questions about your nomination? Yes


Page last reviewed January 2021
Page originally created July 2020

Internet Citation: Digital Health Applications for Mental Health Disorders. Content last reviewed January 2021. Effective Health Care Program, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

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