Copyright ©The Author(s) 2016. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Psychiatr. Jun 22, 2016; 6(2): 187-191
Published online Jun 22, 2016. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v6.i2.187
Reporting and understanding the safety and adverse effect profile of mobile apps for psychosocial interventions: An update
Farooq Naeem, Nadeem Gire, Shuo Xiang, Megan Yang, Yumeen Syed, Farhad Shokraneh, Clive Adams, Saeed Farooq
Farooq Naeem, Shuo Xiang, Megan Yang, Department of Psychiatry, Queens University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada
Farooq Naeem, Addiction and Mental Health Services - Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Kingston, ON K7L 1B9, Canada
Nadeem Gire, School of Psychology, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire PR1 2HE, United Kingdom
Yumeen Syed, Trenlogic, Toronto, ON M2N 6S6, Canada
Farhad Shokraneh, Clive Adams, Cochrane Schizophrenia Group, Nottingham University, Nottingham NG7 2QL, United Kingdom
Saeed Farooq, Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, United Kingdom
Author contributions: Naeem F conceived the idea; Gire N helped with literature search on side effects of therapy and manuscript; Xiang S and Yang M helped with search of literature on side effects of internet and app use; Syed Y helped with security issues; Shokraneh F helped with the overall script; Adams C and Farooq S provided overall support and organized multiple discussions that lead to this paper.
Conflict-of-interest statement: The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Correspondence to: Farooq Naeem, Professor, Addiction and Mental Health Services - Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, 385 Princess Street, Kingston, ON K7L 1B9, Canada. farooqnaeem@yahoo.com
Telephone: +1-613-5441356 Fax: +1-613-5442346
Received: February 3, 2016
Peer-review started: February 14, 2016
First decision: March 25, 2016
Revised: May 10, 2016
Accepted: May 31, 2016
Article in press: June 2, 2016
Published online: June 22, 2016

Recent years have seen a rapidly increasing trend towards the delivery of health technology through mobile devices. Smartphones and tablet devices are thus becoming increasingly popular for accessing information and a wide range of services, including health care services. Modern mobile apps can be used for a variety of reasons, ranging from education for the patients and assistance to clinicians to delivery of interventions. Mobile phone apps have also been established to benefit patients in a scope of interventions across numerous medical specialties and treatment modalities. Medical apps have their advantages and disadvantages. It is important that clinicians have access to knowledge to make decisions regarding the use of medical apps on the basis of risk-benefit ratio. Mobile apps that deliver psycho social interventions offer unique challenges and opportunities. A number of reviews have highlighted the potential use of such apps. There is a need to describe, report and study their side effects too. The adverse effects associated with these apps can broadly be divided into: (1) those resulting from the security and safety concerns; (2) those arising from the use of a particular psycho social intervention; and (3) those due to the interaction with digital technology. There is a need to refine and reconsider the safety and adverse effects in this area. The safety profile of a mobile PSI app should describe its safety profile in: (1) privacy and security; (2) adverse effects of psychotherapy; and (3) adverse effects unique to the use of apps and the internet. This is, however, a very new area and further research and reporting is required to inform clinical decision making.

Keywords: Mobile, Psycho social, Side effects, Health, Media, Security, Privacy

Core tip: Mobile apps offer unique opportunities and risks when used for delivering psychosocial interventions. While there is some evidence to inform clinicians and patients of the efficacy of these apps, only limited information is available on their risk profiles. The side effects of mobile psychosocial apps might be due to the privacy and security issues, side effects of a particular therapy that is being delivered or due to the use of excessive use of internet or the apps. There is a need for clinicians and patients to report the side effects in these areas.