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User centred evaluation of health apps to manage mood disorders: EvalDepApps project

Authors:

Carme Carrion Ribas ,

eHealth Lab Research Group, Universitat Oberta De Catalunya (UOC), Spain, ES
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Sophie Eis,

Fundació HiTT (Health Innovation Technology Transfer), ES
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Ariadna Sales-Masnou,

Agència per la Competitivitat de l'Empresa (ACCIÓ), ES
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Elisa Puigdomènech,

eHealth Lab Research Group, Universitat Oberta De Catalunya (UOC), Spain Agència de Salut Pública de Barcelona (ASPB), ES
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Noemí Robles,

eHealth Lab Research Group, Universitat Oberta De Catalunya (UOC), Spain, ES
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Andrea Duarte-Diaz,

Canary Islands Health Research Institute Foundation (FIISC), ES
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Josep Vidal-Alaball,

Gerència Territorial de la Catalunya Central, Institut Català de la Salut, ES
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Lilisbeth Perestelo,

Canary Islands Health Service (SESCS) REDISSEC., ES
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Oriol Solà-Morales

Fundació HiTT (Health Innovation Technology Transfer), ES
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Abstract

In the last years, the use of mobile applications represents a revolution in the field of health, and mental health is not an exception, given that they are fast, versatile and manageable tools that allow the empowerment of patients and professionals in health management and can even reduce the possible stigmatization suffered by some patients. There are more than 325,000 health apps on the market, but most of them do not have a significant number of downloads and are not used, meaning their impact is unclear. There are several initiatives to define how health applications should be assessed, however, all of them address only partial aspects of the evaluation. The theoretical frameworks existing to date highlight the need to develop new tools and methodologies that allow assessment of the different aspects of mobile applications whose objective is the management of specific pathologies.

The main objective of the EvalDepApps project is to develop and pilot an assessment tool for mobile applications whose main objective is the treatment, monitoring or social support of people suffering from mood disorders. To achieve this aim, the project is inspired by the results and lessons learnt from a previous project, EVALAPPS, whose main aim was to develop a tool to assess health apps targeted toward the management of overweight and obesity (ref1, ref 2). The first steps of EvalDepApps project are: 1) to explore and characterize the current landscape of current mobile applications available in the market to treat mood disorders and 2) to review the existing evidence about the effectiveness and safety of these applications.

To achieve these objectives, we conducted 1) a systematic search in Apple App Store and Google Play Store of the apps using an ad-hoc developed tool; and a 2) systematic review of the existing evidence in Medline, PubMed, PsycINFO and Scopus databases.

A set of thirty apps were identified together with twenty-seven publications related to these apps. However, these did not exclusively concern mood disorder and only six of the studies were randomized studies. The systematic review identified 17 studies. In total, 8 (47%) of the studies were randomized controlled trials, 3 observational studies, 2 intervention studies, 2 mixed methods studies and 1 was a stepped care arm study. Regarding the digital tools used in the interventions, 6 studies work with web platforms and 11 studies work with apps. All the mood disorders management studies were by design based on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions. The main management tools included in the services (web or apps) were psychoeducation and coaching (14), followed by self-monitoring (13), feedback messaging (13) and were also important the goals setting (11) management tools.

Although health apps seem to be an interesting strategy to treat mood disorders, there are very few apps available on the markets and the supporting evidence is very limited. This result uncovers a need for further systematic and clinically oriented validation and testing of such apps. Nevertheless, these results will be the starting point for the development of the EvalDepApps assessment tool.
How to Cite: Carrion Ribas C, Eis S, Sales-Masnou A, Puigdomènech E, Robles N, Duarte-Diaz A, et al.. User centred evaluation of health apps to manage mood disorders: EvalDepApps project. International Journal of Integrated Care. 2022;22(S3):43. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/ijic.ICIC22279
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Published on 04 Nov 2022.

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