Published online Jun 22, 2016. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v6.i2.187
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.
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.