Introduction: Mobile phones are ubiquitous in society and owned by a majority of psychiatric patients, including those with severe mental illness. Their versatility as a platform can extend mental health services in the areas of communication, self-monitoring, self-management, diagnosis, and treatment. However, the efficacy and reliability of publicly available applications (apps) have yet to be demonstrated. Numerous articles have noted the need for rigorous evaluation of the efficacy and clinical utility of smartphone apps, which are largely unregulated. Professional clinical organizations do not provide guidelines for evaluating mobile apps.
Materials and methods: Guidelines and frameworks are needed to evaluate medical apps. Numerous frameworks and evaluation criteria exist from the engineering and informatics literature, as well as interdisciplinary organizations in similar fields such as telemedicine and healthcare informatics.
Results: We propose criteria for both patients and providers to use in assessing not just smartphone apps, but also wearable devices and smartwatch apps for mental health. Apps can be evaluated by their usefulness, usability, and integration and infrastructure. Apps can be categorized by their usability in one or more stages of a mental health provider's workflow.
Conclusions: Ultimately, leadership is needed to develop a framework for describing apps, and guidelines are needed for both patients and mental health providers.