A framework for rigorously evaluating digital mental health tools

Technology will play a vital role in addressing the worldwide need for better access to mental health services. And while new digital mental health tools are developed every day, decision makers struggle to determine which tools should be used and scaled with confidence in healthcare systems.

To help solve this problem, HRI has built a Framework to guide the development, evaluation, and regulation of top-quality digital mental health tools backed by solid science.

With funding from The RBC Foundation, HRI engaged faculty members from Harvard Medical School, including Yuri Quintana, Ph.D., Chief of the Division of Clinical Informatics at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and John Torous, M.D., Chief of the Division of Digital Psychiatry at BIDMC, to design the Framework. Drawing on input from a distinguished panel of Canadian and international experts in medicine and mobile health, the team produced a groundbreaking report entitled Framework for Evaluation of Mobile Apps for Youth Mental Health. While the report focuses on youth, the Framework is applicable to tools designed for adults.

The Framework was informed by a previous project led by Dr. Quintana, entitled Youth Mental Health Apps in the Digital Age: A Scoping Review of Trends and Evaluations. That project generated a comprehensive report, which explores current trends in youth mental health and looks more closely at several popular mental health apps. The report identifies strengths and limitations of available frameworks for evaluating apps and demonstrates a clear need for the science-backed Framework that has now been developed.

Who benefits from this Framework?

“This Framework will be of high value to consumers, healthcare providers, government leaders, as well as to those who design, evaluate, or invest in mental health apps,” says Dr. Quintana, an expert in clinical informatics and digital health services.

“Equally important, it will pave the way for improvements in regulations and policies related to mental health apps that can help guide how systems are selected, implemented, monitored, and evaluated. This work will help Canada and other countries develop a more scientifically informed process for strategic funding decisions and roadmaps for youth mental health needs.”

Click here to view the full report and framework.

HRI aims to move this work forward in partnership with other organizations interested in digital mental health. For more information on partnering with us to advance this important work, email admin@homewoodresearch.org.

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