Prescribing apps—the challenge of choice

As software and hardware develops, functionality is expanding from simple educational text to video, animation, and audio guidance, recording and display of symptom trends, artificial intelligence for auditory or text conversations (chatbots), and augmented reality.

Some apps have evidence for their value in physical and mental health care as shown in this sample of systematic reviews on patient care apps from a PubMed search*; however, for the most part, more rigorous trials and systematic reviews are needed for final verdicts. Ultimately, apps will offer meaningful value when their content is evidence-based and privacy and security are assured, at a minimum. 

Before recommending an app for patients' self-care, registrants may want to apply a grading system to assess its quality. One such system is the practical App Evaluation Model from the American Psychiatric Association. It is a five-step assessment starting with background aspects (business model, advertising conflicts of interest), and moving on to privacy and security, evidence base for effectiveness, ease of use, and interoperability. 

Registrants looking for other examples of app grading systems can contact the library for a literature search on this fast-changing topic at, 604-733-6671, or through the library request form.

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