Are app developers in a rush to sell a product with an appealing user interface with little evidence of effectiveness?
Mental health apps have exploded onto the scene over the last decade. Millions of people around the globe are now using them. But they come with risks. What should you look out for before downloading them?
According to new research from The University of Manchester and Oxford College, the UK is leading Europe in using technology in healthcare. In its latest report, entitled ‘The Future is Now: How Technology can Transform Health Care in England,’ the team found that almost three-quarters (73%) of patients said they were interested in digital solutions like computerized decision aids or telemedicine to help improve their care.
The mental health industry growth comes with serious ramifications: app developers are not stopping at just creating apps that treat disorders; they’re also making money off consumers who may be drinking dangerously early or online predators preying on children. This trend needs to be closely examined before the industry gets any worse.
Mental-health apps are the most recent way to raise awareness and gain recognition of a personal struggle. Mental health has been growing into a large industry; in 2016, the financial market was valued at $100 billion in the United States alone. This is expected to grow by 2020 to well over $150 billion. With these numbers, it’s no wonder that app developers and entrepreneurs alike have been trying their best to ride this wave.
However, with this growth comes some serious privacy concerns. Many of these apps do not disclose information on how they use user data or their terms for sharing user information with third parties, which puts millions of Americans at risk for identity theft and other forms of fraud.
A simple search of the Google Play Store’s most popular free apps will yield many results for mental health “helper”-apps. Among those found are AnxietyHelper, DepressionHelper, PanicHelper, and Social AnxietyHelper. The most popular of these apps boast more than 10 million downloads and over 5 million reviews. Despite their popularity on app stores, they have little regulation from the FDA or FTC—the government agencies regulating medical treatments (including apps). This is concerning because many people don’t realize when an app is or is not a legitimate source for treatment or help.
From a consumer protection standpoint, the best apps for mental health have some of the following features:
* They are FDA regulated or certified.
* They disclose that they monitor the patient for potentially harmful behavior.
* They disclose what information is being tracked and how it will be used.
Here are some of the best apps for mental health:
MoodKit applies psychological principles to help one with everyday life.
Moodfit helps regulate and improve the fitness of your mood.
Talkspace helps users connect to therapists.
Headspace uses proven meditation techniques to lighten your load.
Todoist helps you effectively track your schedule.
Mental health apps and the industry don’t look to slow down anytime soon, as the number of mental health patients. However, people must understand their responsibilities in using the apps. Furthermore, consumers should be aware of the potential for privacy and regulatory issues involving mental health apps.
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