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Dr. Stephen Schueller

Dr. Schueller is the Executive Director of PsyberGuide and an Assistant Professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He is a faculty member of Northwestern’s Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBITs) and his work focuses on increasing the accessibility and availability of mental health resources through technology.

At PsyberGuide we’ve recently been focused on efforts to revisit, revise, and refresh our website and our content. Changes in technologies have led to pessimism that the process of reviewing apps may be a Sisyphean task. New apps are added and old apps change and disappear at a rapid pace. PsyberGuide, however, can also be a changing and updating resource, and I want to cover some of the changes we’ve been making.

First, we consistently make changes to the reviews listed on our PsyberGuide site. We are often contacted by app users, developers, and researchers to let us know when information needs to be updated. A new research article is published, pricing for the app or in-app features change, or a substantial software update brings new features. This type of feedback is extremely useful and we believe getting feedback from the community is an important way that projects, like PsyberGuide, can be successful in the face of a constantly changing landscape.

Even with this feedback, however, we have to engage in self-correction to ensure that our reviews remain current and accurate. At the beginning of this year, we decided to invest a month to focus on re-reviewing apps listed on PsyberGuide. At least 13 apps were no longer available for download and those are now included in the app guide under “No Longer Available.” We keep them on the site because people still might look for information about these apps even if they cannot be found on the app stores (i.e., if they already have it on their phones or they want to cross-reference with another resource where it is described). Or, these products could re-appear in the future. In total, we re-reviewed 56 apps. Of those apps, 25 apps (44%) had increases in their credibility scores. Increases in scores were mostly due to the publication of new studies supporting the benefits of those apps or increases in the research support evaluating those benefits. This is promising as it suggests that developed apps are being evaluated through rigorous, grant-funded research and that those evaluations are resulting in peer-reviewed publications. The more high quality data that is collected and disseminated on such resources, the more future development and research can build on what works and what doesn’t. Six apps (10%) received lower scores; the most common reason for lower scores was that the apps had not been recently updated resulting in lower scores for software support. Thus, although these apps were not removed from the app stores it is obvious that their upkeep is not being prioritized. It’s possible that many of these apps could have bugs or other issues that would negatively impact the user experience or failures to confirm to new standards and expectations.

We’ve also worked to update the general look and feel of the site. Some of these changes were based on feedback from a large survey (N = 811) and focus groups we conducted with people who might be interested in mobile health apps. We asked questions to learn what type of information people are looking for, and how best to display that information. Based on these findings we revised language, content, and visuals. Other findings from this work will come out in a recently accepted paper in Journal of Medical Internet Research.1 We’ve been working on some more changes like an updated search feature for helping people find an app that fits what they’re looking for, and more general content that describes why and how apps might be helpful for brain health. We’ve also rolled out a newsletter that you can sign up for here, which will continue to be a good source of information about the newest changes to our site, recent apps we’ve reviewed, and other things we’re up to both online and elsewhere. We’re also hoping to have a new research feature available soon so we can get more feedback from the people who use our site and we’re looking forward to learning more from the PsyberGuide community. So, although we recognize that keeping up with the pace of development is challenging, we continue to think of new ways to do so while also keeping the community informed about what we’re changing and why we’re doing it.

  1. Schueller, S. M., Neary, M., O’Loughlin, K., & Adkins, E. C. (2018). Discovery of and interest in health apps among those with mental health needs: A survey and focus group study. Journal of Medical Internet Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.2196/10141

 

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