Mobile Health Apps: Providing Better Care to Patients in 2021

Mobile health appsLuckily, it was during an era of rapidly advancing technology that the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

While the outside world was put on hold and life stood still, individuals, communities, and organizations could still connect in modified ways.

Through Zoom and Skype meetings, FaceTime, and various other modalities, loved ones could stay in touch, businesses could continue operating, and people were able to navigate life in an uncertain world.

Part of that world required the ability to obtain healthcare. In particular, mental health became more of a priority than ever as schools closed, people were physically isolated, illness spread, and lives were lost. During that time, mobile health apps began to change healthcare across the globe.

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How Are Mobile Health Apps Changing Healthcare?

Mobile health (mHealth) technologies are radically transforming the practice and reach of medical care. With mobile health apps, individuals can monitor, track, and transmit health metrics continuously and in real time.

According to the World Health Organization Global Observatory for eHealth (2011), health apps can provide psychoeducation, monitor symptoms, teach symptom management skills, and provide tools to facilitate treatment adherence.

In 2013 in the United States alone, 91% of the population over age 18 owned a mobile phone, and 61% of these were smartphones (Smith, 2013). Smartphones have become such a big part of our routines that many of us spend more time every day looking at phone screens than TV screens.

The availability of mHealth apps can increase access to services for patients who are unable to obtain treatment due to work schedules, family or caregiving duties, or geographical distance, and can also facilitate patient autonomy.

The technology afforded by mHealth apps has the potential to improve our understanding of human physiology and health, and reengineer nearly every facet of healthcare.

The mHealth market is expected to grow at a rate of 17.6% until 2028, reaching a value of $166.2 billion (Grand View Research, 2021). The number of downloads for mHealth apps in January 2020 spiked by 90%, possibly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So what are these apps capable of? Wearable sensors can track, diagnose, and manage various physiological processes all over the body. Wearables include bracelets, watches, skin patches, headbands, earphones, and even clothing.

Modern technology can measure blood pressure, galvanic skin responses, heart rate variability, sleep stages, respiratory distress, and blood glucose, monitoring the daily lives of large populations (Poh, Swenson, & Picard, 2010). It can also track and transfer biometric data through apps to healthcare providers, researchers, or family members.

 

7 Benefits of Mobile Health Apps

Benefits of mobile health appsMobile mental health apps provide valuable benefits that traditional health practices are not capable of.

Some of the benefits of mental health apps, systematically examined through surveys, questionnaires, and research studies (Marshall, Dunstan, & Bartik, 2020), include the following:

  1. Convenience and portability
    They can be easily transported from place to place and allow instant assistance wherever a phone or device can be accessed.

  2. Serve populations that would not normally be able to receive treatment
    Individuals in rural and low-income areas can receive benefits that are not available in traditional formats due to geographic or financial constraints.

  3. Reluctant individuals can be reached and assisted
    They offer anonymity for people who may not want to visit a mental health facility or in-person practice. These could include people with phobias or those unable to leave their homes.

  4. Help outside of sessions
    Health apps can provide interactive homework activities that can be completed by the patient and immediately sent to the therapist. With easy access to activities, clients may also be more likely to complete them than they might with traditional pen-and-paper methods.

  5. Psychoeducation
    Apps can provide education on physical and mental health through short lessons that include explanations, videos, and audio descriptions. These might include experiential and self-help tasks that clients can do anytime and anywhere.

  6. Reminders
    Apps can remind clients to take medication or complete tasks and assignments. There are even apps that remind us to stand up or breathe to increase activity and reduce stress.

  7. Preventative treatment
    Mental health apps also offer preventative treatment through early intervention and education. Apps can provide a safe place for individuals to complete self-assessment and resources to seek appropriate treatment.

 

What Is the Best Mobile Health App?

As mentioned, mHealth apps have advanced telehealth services all over the world. A 2016 survey found that out of 15,000 mobile health apps, over 4,000 of them focused on mental health (Anthes, 2016). Research has examined different aspects of mental health apps, including their practicality, acceptability, ease of use, and a variety of user engagement criteria.

Because there are so many factors to consider when measuring the value and use of mobile health apps, conclusive evidence for the “best app” is lacking (Ng, Firth, Minen, & Torus, 2019).

While the American Psychiatric Association (2021a) does not explicitly rate mobile health apps, its App Advisor evaluates apps to provide practitioners with a way to make informed decisions for their clients.

The Association reviews apps in terms of safety/privacy, efficacy, ease of use, and data sharing (American Psychiatric Association, 2021b). It takes an objective look at administrative, physical, and technical aspects of health apps and examines security and HIPAA compliance issues.

But what do clients want from an mHealth app? According to tech company Imaginovation, patients want easy access to app functionalities, actionable information, and easy communication with professionals. Further research has shown that 90% of people delete a health app if it is not user friendly (Georgiou, 2021). An app with a good digital experience is critical for mHealth success.

The new mHealth app Quenza was built by the founders of PositivePsychology.com, with the help of the wider positive psychology community. It is user friendly to both clinicians and their clients. It provides engagement and interaction to help motivate clients to stick to mental health and performance goals. Additionally, it ensures the security compliance that the American Psychiatric Association requires for top app ratings.

The consistent download and use of coaching apps over time is one potential indicator that they provide a positive experience and produce results for users. Although we would like to recommend Quenza as the best mobile health app, it is fairly new, with just over 100,000 Google Play Store installs (as of writing), and some components are still being developed.

Some other top mobile mental health apps include the following:

  • MY3 is a free app designed to help individuals who have thoughts of suicide. It allows users to create a personal safety plan by noting warning signs and listing coping strategies and resources such as direct contact with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

  • What’s Up? is a mental health app that uses Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy to help users cope with depression, anxiety, and stress. The app offers tools to identify negative thinking patterns, a diary, habit trackers, games, quotes, and more to improve mental and emotional health.

  • 24 Hours a Day is an app to help with addiction based on the bestselling book of the same name. It proves 366 meditations from the book to help people recover from addiction no matter where they are in the process.

  • Talkspace is one of the most popular therapy apps. It connects users through text messages and other services to help with a variety of mental health issues.

  • Daylio is a general mood-tracking app that uses a journal, goals, and tracking system. It can help users become more self-aware and regulate emotions.

  • Happify uses evidence-based techniques to help users form new habits and improve mental and emotional wellbeing. Based on the science of happiness, a variety of tools and techniques help individuals find their optimal level of wellbeing.

  • The PTSD Coach app was developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It offers self-assessment, support, positive self-talk, and anger management. The customizable tools have been empirically validated by the VA and the Department of Defense (Gould et al., 2019).

  • Two of the most popular mental health apps among the general population are Headspace and Calm. Headspace teaches mindfulness and meditation skills in just a few minutes per day. Apple named Calm the 2017 iPhone App of the year. It provides guided meditations, sleep stories, breathing programs, and relaxing music.

 

5 Helpful Interactive Tools in Quenza

Quenza ActivitiesThe Quenza app offers a user-friendly digital experience that both clients and practitioners enjoy.

Quenza is an online platform that can act as a supplement and gateway for one-on-one therapy or coaching sessions. The app was founded by a technology team working in the field of psychology (Draghici, 2021).

Quenza saves time, creates an avenue for engagement between sessions, and allows coaches/therapists to follow client progress.

Results will automatically be sent to the practitioner when clients engage with the following:

  • Homework activities
  • Psychoeducation worksheets and activities including client feedback forms
  • Assessment questionnaires
  • Onboarding intake forms
  • Signing legal documents

 

5 Unique Benefits of the Quenza Mobile App

1. Personalized activities and pathways

Quenza allows coaches and therapists to personalize activities in sequences for individual clients. They can be modified and tailored to specific needs and adjusted as the therapy process continues.

 

2. Interactive and applicable psychoeducation tools

Psychoeducation significantly improves treatment outcomes in coaching and therapy (Donker, Griffiths, Cuijpers, & Christensen, 2009). While psychoeducation is a critical part of development and mental health, it can often be dry and boring. Quenza offers interactive tools, quotes, stories, and metaphors to educate users from the convenience of a mobile device.

 

3. Convenience

Clinicians can access Quenza tools and data from a computer, phone, or tablet and receive immediate results of client activity. The accessibility allows therapists and coaches to run their practice from any location at any time. Clients are able to complete lessons, activities, and homework at their convenience, and the information is directly accessible to the practitioner.

 

4. Saves time

Quenza provides a large resource of pre-made activities and assignments, helping clinicians save time and energy. Additionally, the ability to store the results of these activities and track progress eliminates the need for time-consuming notes, email recording, and record keeping.

 

5. Confidentiality

Quenza HIPAA Compliance Psychoeducation Tools

With all the benefits of therapy at your fingertips, confidentiality and privacy are a vital part of the therapeutic alliance.

Not only does confidentiality build trust and create space to open up, it is required by law for most professionals.

Quenza is HIPAA and GDPR compliant and requires all users to have a personal PIN code for an extra layer of security.

 

A Take-Home Message

The usability, functionality, and interactive capacity of the newest health apps are a wonderful development for both clients and practitioners looking to optimize wellness, performance, and mental health.

Quenza is a new and promising mHealth app that provides all the benefits mobile health apps can offer. It saves time and is easily accessible for clients and practitioners. With engaging activities, Quenza offers psychoeducation tools and help outside of sessions, and is an option for those who may not normally be able to access mental health or coaching resources.

You can experience the benefits yourself and see what the positive reviews are all about with a $1 monthly trial.

We all need to maintain connection and focus on health and wellness during trying times. With lives settling into a ‘new normal,’ we will all be able to reap the benefits of improved technology, digital platforms, and innovations in healthcare.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 350 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2021a). App Advisor. Retrieved May 24, 2021, from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/mental-health-apps
  • American Psychiatric Association. (2021b). Mobile health (mHealth). Retrieved April 28, 2021, from https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/practice-management/hipaa/hipaa-and-hit-primer/mobile-health
  • Anthes, E. (2016). Mental health: There’s an app for that. Nature, 532, 20–23.
  • Donker, T., Griffiths, M., Cuijpers, P., & Christensen, H. (2009). Psychoeducation for depression, anxiety and psychological distress: A meta-analysis. BMC Medicine, 7(79), 91–114.
  • Draghici, A. (2021, March 8). Quenza: When your therapist goes digital (Review). ECounseling.com Retrieved April 16, 2021, from https://www.e-counseling.com/online-therapy-guide/quenza-review/
  • Georgiou, M. (2021, January 23). Developing a healthcare app in 2021: What do patients really want? Imaginovation. Retrieved May 1, 2021, from https://www.imaginovation.net/blog/developing-a-mobile-health-app-what-patients-really-want/
  • Gould, C. E., Kok, B., Ma, V., Zapata, A., Owen, J., & Kuhn, E. (2019). Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense mental health apps: A systematic literature review. Psychological Services, 16(2), 196–207.
  • Grand View Research. (2021, February). mHealth market growths and trends. Retrieved May 1, 2021, from https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-mHealth-market
  • Marshall, J. M., Dunstan, D. A., & Bartik, W. (2020). Smartphone psychology: New approaches towards safe and efficacious mobile mental health apps. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 51, 214–222.
  • Ng, M. M., Firth, J., Minen, N., & Torus, J. (2019). User engagement in mental health apps: A review of measurement, reporting, and validity. Psychiatric Services, 70, 538–544.
  • Poh, M., Swenson, N., & Picard, R. (2010). A wearable sensor for unobtrusive, long-term assessment of electrodermal activity. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 57(5), 1243–1252.
  • Smith, A. (2013, June 5). Smartphone ownership. Pew Research Center. Retrieved April 20, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2013/06/05/smartphone-ownership-2013/
  • World Health Organization Global Observatory for eHealth. (2011). mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies: Second global survey on eHealth. Global Observatory for eHealth series – Volume 3. World Health Organization.

About the Author

Dr. Melissa Madeson, Ph.D., believes in a holistic approach to mental health and wellness and uses a person-centered approach when working with clients.   Currently in full-time private practice, she uses her experience with performance psychology, teaching, and designing collegiate wellness courses and yoga therapy to address a range of specific client needs.

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