Discovery of Health Apps Among Those With Mental Health Needs

A study published in Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) by Stephen M Schueller, PhD and colleagues from Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, recruited participants from Northwestern University’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies’ research registry of individuals with mental health needs. Participants (n=811) completed a survey asking about their use and interest in health and mental health apps. A total of 7 focus groups composed of local participants were conducted with 30 participants that collected more detailed information about their use and interest in health and mental health apps.

Results revealed that the most common sources that were indentified by participants in looking for mental health apps were social media (45.1%) as well through their own searches (42.7%). Common places people searched for apps were the app stores, Google searches, and Web forums such as Reddit. Some specific apps were suggested by their medical providers (24.6%), others indicated that a friend or family member helped them identify apps (36.9%). It appears that more informal sources of information are relied on more than formal of sources of information in identifying mental health apps.

The authors describe that “the results of our survey and focus group were largely consistent showing that, in general, content within apps (eg, aesthetics, features, and functionality) was the largest determinant to encourage people to download and use health apps. Although notions of credibility and issues of privacy and security were important, these aspects were often assumed to be present when “trusted sources” were involved in app development.” The survey data revealed one hesitation to adoption was uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of digital tools, “but the focus group participants did not seem to think that research evidence was extremely compelling.”

The study suggests that “future work should help promote standards related to the promotion of health apps to ensure that effective tools make their ways into the hands of consumers. Furthermore, our focus groups identified “trusted sources” as a strong influence of people’s decision to use tools, but the survey results participants rarely received information about apps from professional sources such as providers.”

Source: JMIR, Schueller, et al.

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