Which Apps Are Best for Improving Clinicians' Mental Health?

Peter M. Yellowlees, MBBS, MD


August 07, 2018

This is the Medscape Psychiatry Minute. I'm Dr Peter Yellowlees.

High burnout, depression, and suicide rates have been reported in healthcare professionals, only a minority of whom receive treatment. Concerns regarding confidentiality, stigma, potential career implications, and cost and time constraints are cited as key barriers to care, which can potentially be circumvented by Web-based and mobile applications.

Now a team of investigators[1] from the University of California San Diego have reviewed published data on such resources and selected a small sample of apps that could readily be used by healthcare professionals. After extensive searches of the academic literature and the Internet, from 36 possible resources found they selected seven to examine in detail. The general categories under which they fall are breathing (Breath2Relax), meditation (Headspace, guided-meditation audios), Web-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (MoodGYM, Stress Gym), and suicide prevention (Stay Alive, Virtual Hope Box). They concluded that this list serves as a starting point to enhance coping with stressors, and they recommended future steps such as adapting digital health strategies to specifically fit the needs of healthcare providers, with the ultimate goal of facilitating in-person care when warranted.

So where does this leave us? Most of us use apps with our patients, and many patients bring us their information already loaded up on a wide variety of apps. What we need to develop are specific formularies of apps for specific groups of patients, just as we have formularies of medications for differing disorders.

The problem with apps, of course, is how to measure their efficacy and security so as to know whether we are dealing with something that's tried and tested or something that was developed by a neighbor's son in their garage last week. Fortunately, many groups are working on this assessment problem. I personally use several of the apps quoted in this paper routinely in my practice. So give them a try.

Thank you for listening to this Medscape Psychiatry Minute. Do continue to enjoy your practice.


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