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J Nerv Ment Dis. 2018 Aug;206(8):662-666. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000864.

The Emerging Imperative for a Consensus Approach Toward the Rating and Clinical Recommendation of Mental Health Apps.

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Division of Digital Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
NICM, School of Science and Health, Western Sydney University.
Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
Division of Hospital Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Clinical Informatics, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA.


With over 10,000 mental health- and psychiatry-related smartphone apps available today and expanding, there is a need for reliable and valid evaluation of these digital tools. However, the updating and nonstatic nature of smartphone apps, expanding privacy concerns, varying degrees of usability, and evolving interoperability standards, among other factors, present serious challenges for app evaluation. In this article, we provide a narrative review of various schemes toward app evaluations, including commercial app store metrics, government initiatives, patient-centric approaches, point-based scoring, academic platforms, and expert review systems. We demonstrate that these different approaches toward app evaluation each offer unique benefits but often do not agree to each other and produce varied conclusions as to which apps are useful or not. Although there are no simple solutions, we briefly introduce a new initiative that aims to unify the current controversies in app elevation called CHART (Collaborative Health App Rating Teams), which will be further discussed in a second article in this series.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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