14 Apr Evaluation of treatment descriptions and alignment with clinical guidance of apps for depression on app stores
Background: The use of apps for the treatment of depression shows great promise. However, there is uncertainty regarding the alignment of publicly available apps for depression with clinical guidance, their treatment fidelity and evidence base, and their overall safety.
Objective: Built on previous analyses and reviews, this study aims to explore the treatment and safety issues of publicly available apps for depression.
Methods: We conducted a content analysis of apps for depression in the 2 main UK app stores (Google Play and Apple App Store). App store listings were analyzed for intervention content, treatment fidelity, and fit with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for the treatment of depression in adults.
Results: A total of 353 apps for depression were included in the review. App descriptions reported the use of 20 treatment approaches and 37 treatment strategies. Many apps used transdiagnostic (155/353, 43.9%) and multitheoretical interventions to treat multiple disorders including depression. Although many interventions appeared to be evidence-informed, there were issues with treatment fidelity, research evidence, and fit with clinical guidelines. None of the apps fully aligned with the NICE guidelines for depression.
Conclusions: App developers have adopted many evidence-informed treatments in their interventions; however, more work is needed to improve clinical validity, treatment fidelity, and the safety of apps. We urge developers to consult relevant guidelines and standards, and to engage in reflective questioning on treatment and safety to address these issues and to improve treatment content and intervention design.
Bowie-DaBreo D, Sünram-Lea SI, Sas C, Iles-Smith H. Evaluation of treatment descriptions and alignment with clinical guidance of apps for depression on app stores: systematic search and content analysis. JMIR formative research. 2020 Nov 13;4(11):e14988.