Targeting depressive symptoms with technology

John Torous, Paul Cerrato, John Halamka


Interest in digital mental health, driven largely by the need to increase access to mental health services, presents new opportunities as well as challenges. This article provides a selective overview of several new approaches, including chatbots and apps, with a focus on exploring their unique characteristics. To understand the broader issues around digital mental health apps, we discuss recent reviews in this space in the context of how they can inform care today, and how these apps fail to address several important gaps. Framing apps as either tools to augment versus deliver care, we explore ongoing struggles in this space that will determine how apps are used, regulated, and reimbursed for. Realizing that many mental health apps today exist in this still undefined space and often possess no evidence, we conclude with an overview of the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s app evaluation framework with the goal of offering a more informed approach to these digital tools.