Advances in mobile mental health: opportunities and implications for the spectrum of e-mental health services

Donald M. Hilty, Steven Chan, Tiffany Hwang, Alice Wong, Amy M. Bauer


Mobile health (mHealth), telemedicine and other technology-based services facilitate mental health service delivery and may be considered part of an e-mental health (eMH) spectrum of care. Web- and Internet-based resources provide a great opportunity for the public, patients, healthcare providers and others to improve wellness, practice prevention and reduce suffering from illnesses. Mobile apps offer portability for access anytime/anywhere, are inexpensive versus traditional desktop computers, and have additional features (e.g., context-aware interventions and sensors with real-time feedback. This paper discusses mobile mental health (mMH) options, as part of a broader framework of eMH options. The evidence-based literature shows that many people have an openness to technology as a way to help themselves, change behaviors and engage additional clinical services. Studies show that traditional video-based synchronous telepsychiatry (TP) is as good as in-person service, but mHealth outcomes have been rarely, directly compared to in-person and other eMH care options. Similarly, technology options added to in-person care or combined with others have not been evaluated nor linked with specific goals and desired outcomes. Skills and competencies for clinicians are needed for mHealth, social media and other new technologies in the eMH spectrum, in addition to research by randomized trials and study of health service delivery models with an emphasis on effectiveness.