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mHealth in psychiatry: time for methodological change
  1. Jennifer Nicholas1,2,
  2. Katherine Boydell1,
  3. Helen Christensen1
  1. 1Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Faculty of Medicine, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Jennifer Nicholas, Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales, Hospital Road, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, Sydney, NSW 2031, Australia; j.nicholas{at}


A multitude of mental health apps are available to consumers through the Apple and Google app stores. However, evidence supporting the effectiveness of mHealth is scant. We argue this gap between app availability and research evidence is primarily due to unsuitable knowledge translation practices and therefore suggest abandoning the randomised controlled trial as the primary app evaluation paradigm. Alternative evaluation methodologies such as iterative participatory research and single case designs are better aligned with mHealth translational needs. A further challenge to the use of mobile technology in mental health is the dissemination of information about app quality to consumers. Strategies to facilitate successful dissemination of quality resources must consider several factors, such as target audience and context. In practice, structured solutions to inform consumers of evidence-informed apps could range from the development of consumer used tools to app accreditation portals. Consumer enthusiasm for apps represents an opportunity to increase access and support for psychiatric populations. However, adoption of alternative research methodologies and the development of dissemination strategies are vital before this opportunity can be substantially seized.


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