There is a vast array of health apps that we can turn to nowadays, but how many of those are backed by evidence remains unclear. Only in March, a study published in Nature Digital Medicine found that only two out of 73 mental health apps provided evidence from a study associated with their use. And in June, a paper released in the same journal pointed to the lack of standardised measures for the quality and effectiveness of mental health and behavioural health apps, prompting researchers to call for up-to-date guidance for both clinicians and consumers.
To make sense of the growing amount of innovation out there, in Europe, the Dutch Foundation for Mental Health (MIND) has recently announced that it will be working with ORCHA, the Organisation for the Review of Health & Care Apps.
The aim is to support their efforts to create an app signposting platform, which MIND is working on with GGZ Nederland, a sector organisation of specialist mental health and addiction care providers in the country, and their members, expected to be delivered by the end of the year.
“We know that mental health apps can make a real difference, but with no regulations, finding safe and effective ones can be extremely hard for patients and practitioners,” said Liz Ashall-Payne, ORCHA CEO.
WHY IT MATTERS
According to the 2018 OECD report, Health at a Glance in Europe, available evidence indicates that “tens of millions of Europeans” are affected every year by mental-ill health.
In 2016, based on estimates from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Netherlands - along with Finland, France and Ireland - ranked among the countries with the highest rates of mental health disorders in Europe, while Romania, Bulgaria and Poland were at the other end of the spectrum.
These differences might be the result of more people seeking help in some countries, the OECD said, as well as better access to services, increased awareness and initiatives aiming to reduce stigma.
In 2015, costs related to mental-ill health were estimated to exceed 4% of GDP across the 28 EU countries, and over 5% of GDP in the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Belgium.
THE LARGER TREND
In a recent interview with MobiHealthNews, the ORCHA chief executive revealed that only around 15-20% of apps the organisation reviewed achieved the right level of evidence.
The field, however, is continuing to grow. in July, UpLift Health, which provides an app that employs cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help users with depression, secured $1m (€900,000) in seed funding. In April, Finnish startup Meru Health, which offers a digital tool for mental health supported by licensed therapists, also landed $4.2m (€3.8m) in seed funding.
ON THE RECORD
Commenting on the new collaboration with MIND, Ashall-Payne added:
“We’re delighted to be working with MIND in the Netherlands, to put steps in place to safeguard people and help them find the best apps.”
In October, ORCHA will also be hosting an app zone for developers to showcase their solutions at the HETT show taking place in London.
HIMSS is the official knowledge partner for HETT. MobiHealthNews is a HIMSS Media publication.