Guide to using apps

Apps for handling mental health problems

In the Psychiatry in the Region of Southern Denmark, we find it that apps have great potential for both treatment and support to handle psychological problems:

  • Apps are available at all times and can be used in everyday situations, precisely when the need arises.
  • Apps can build a bridge to help services and ease contact with health professionals and other users in the same situation.
  • Apps can support one to spot the early warning signs and allow early intervention.
  • Apps can give the user insight of both the development of symptoms and improvement over time.
  • Apps can reach many at once and allows contact with people who do not seek treatment with physical attendance. 

 

HOW CAN YOU USE APPS IN THE PSYCHIATRY
Apps can be used to manage an everyday life with mental illness, for symptom detection and recovery, and therapy and information about illness and recovery. Furthermore, apps can be used to communication and collaboration between patient, relatives and therapist.

 

What should you be aware of

Based on experience from tests of apps in the psychiatry, we have prepared some key points to be aware of when using apps. Further down this page, you can also download a guide for the use of apps in the child and adolescent psychiatry.

Apps do not replace treatment

Apps have the advantage that they can be with the patient around the clock. They can help increase the availability of knowledge about a disease, and coping plans can be at hand. 

They can support more frequent self-evaluation, and make communication between therapist and patient easier so that help can move closer.

However, even if the app is present to the patient, it will never be able to replace human contact. Apps must, therefore, always be seen as a tool in the treatment and not a direct replacement.

It is you as a health professional that evaluates

Everyone can develop and publish an app. Therefore, the quality of apps is also fluctuating. Some apps may even have recommendations that can be inappropriate for the treatment.

Therefore, it is essential that you, as a therapist, always take your reservations when you consider using an app in the treatment. 

As a starting point, you can always seek advice from MindApps.dk. All apps on this page have been tested in the App Checker. Nevertheless, it is important that you, as a therapist, also make an assessment of the app’s content and whether it fits your particular treatment and patient. 

You can also read more about apps in practice in our app guide further down this page. The guide has been prepared in collaboration with the child and adolescent psychiatry in the Region of Southern Denmark.

Evidence and good practice

Much treatment in the healthcare sector, including the psychiatry, is based on controlled clinical trials comparing the results to a control group receiving other known treatment.

When it concerns apps, the number that has been through controlled clinical trials is meagre.

The speed of the development of apps makes it challenging to conduct pure controlled studies, as the technology may already be obsolete at the end of the study. Therefore, one must be aware of the lack of controlled studies and instead focus on which methods the apps are based on. It is often methods that have been through studies or is based on acknowledged good practice.

Apps are updated and changed

Apps are continually evolving, and changes of them are made on an ongoing basis. Typically, we are used to the fact that treatment tools are already fully developed until new equipment is purchased. Apps do, however, talk to operating systems that are regularly updated. 

Therefore, it is often positive if an app is regularly updated as well as it makes the app more likely to be optimized for the latest operating systems. These are signs that the developer is continually improving and correcting errors. However, this also means that you, as a user of the app, must be aware that changes may occur during updates.

Technological breakdown

Technology is continuously evolving, and because of that, you cannot expect apps to be 100% without errors.

Therefore, it is essential that you, as a therapist, are aware of what should happen to the treatment at a possible crash. 

Who has, e.g. responsibility for data loss and what should happen to further processing? If it is a major technological breakdown, it can be an advantage to have an emergency plan ready so that the treatment can continue without the technical aid. 

Equal treatment access for all

The cost of an app, if there is any, should as a standard be covered by the treatment site. It is, however, ok to recommend an app with payment requirements if a similar cost-free app is also available for the patient.

Also, you can assign an app that is not cost-free, as long as it is not part of the treatment itself and not a direct recommendation. The same rules apply to access to equipment. If you offer a treatment course where apps are needed, the patient must have access to the necessary equipment (smartphone or tablet).

A department can provide equipment in the form of a loan phone or tablet or offer other treatments that do not require the same material. However, the quality of the treatment must be the same regardless of the equipment used.

Misuse of data

The use of apps as an auxiliary tool is new. 

Therefore, there are some new reservations one should take concerning security. Monitoring in treatment is old news, but with new digital tools and the general digitization, the methods have changed. Such monitoring is now often automated, and data is stored on either the therapist’s or patient’s units or a server.

That is why it is essential to be aware of who has access to data and to make sure that data cannot be misused. Apps on MindApps.dk are all apps, safe to use. If there are attention points for the data security, it will appear under the heading “Good to know” in each application notification. 

However, it is still the responsibility of the therapist to ensure, when considering using an app that is collecting sensitive information, that data is processed securely.


Guide to apps in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Behind the guide

In 2016, the Telepsychiatric Center and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry in the Region of Southern Denmark made a number of recommendations on how to use apps in collaboration with children and adolescents and their relatives. The guide is designed for the following purposes:

  • To explore how apps can be included in collaboration between patients, relatives and therapists.
  • To gather information on and documenting experiences of using apps in clinical work.
  • To contribute to the development of a method for quality assurance of apps. 

 

A working group has worked on five different apps, intending to support Affective Team and Neuro Team. The five apps in the test are all security approved, have simple functionality and do not include recording and storing of sensitive data. The following five apps were included in the test: Breathe, Worrytime, Living Buddy, Minplan and SAM – Self-help Anxiety Management. 

The trial resulted in a guide on how to use apps in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A quick guide was made, as well.

You can download both guides here:

                   

 

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