Staying Well-Informed on Digital Tools

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Be curious and well-informed about upcoming digital tools in mental health.

Susan J. Noonan, MD, MPH, shares details on something she has recently been curious about in the evolving health care landscape: digital tools for mental health care. While she was originally hesitant, she asks everyone to keep an open mind when considering their incorporation into clinical practice, as long as it is done thoughtfully and safely.

One resource she found helpful in learning more was the virtual seminars sponsored by Mass General Hospital Center for Precision Psychiatry.

These tools are not going away. It may be better, in her opinion, to use them to help address issues like access to care, shame/stigma, logistics, financial burden, and the provider shortage in the face of increasingly prevalence of mental disorders. When designed well, they may have a role in bridging the divide between patients and limited therapeutic resources.

There are approximately 90,000 apps for health care, with 20,000 of those focusing on mental health. Unfortunately, only 2% to 4% are evidence-based. Furthermore, they are unregulated and exist without input from clinicians. Digital tools with the best outcomes are ones designed to incorporate human contact, evidence shows.

How do you determine which are the good and reliable apps to recommend to patients? Noonan shares a few guideline screening tools.

Dr Noonan is a physician, mental health and wellness coach; author of 5 books on managing mental health and mood disorders with a print and video blog; consultant; group facilitator; and certified peer specialist. Dr Noonan is the inaugural recipient of the National Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Peer Support Specialist of the Year 2022. Her most recent book, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, is Reconnecting After Isolation: Coping With Anxiety, Depression, Grief, PTSD, and More.

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