Wysa emerges as one of the top 3 mental health apps according to APA evaluation model

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Wysa was among the top 3 mental health apps in a study conducted at Western Sydney University and Monash University, Australia, in which researchers systematically assessed 92 mental health apps for quality and integrity using the American Psychiatric Association’s app evaluation model.

According to the analysis carried out by researchers Nikki S. Rickard, Perin Kurt and Tanya Meade, Wysa is accessible, possesses integrity due to its privacy and safety policies, produces comprehensive scholarship, is based on research-based evidence, and is user-friendly.

The researchers also pointed out that:

  • Digital mental health interventions make mental health services accessible, particularly to geographically alienated and financially constrained groups.
  • Since there is a great deal of stigma associated with mental health problems, digital mental health interventions allow people to seek treatment in a confidential and private manner.
  • Digital interventions offer preventative services and early interventions.
  • Young people find digital mental health interventions engaging, rewarding and empowering.
  • Recent scholarship on mental health smartphone apps has shown that these interventions possess the ability to be clinically efficacious.

The evaluation process

The study involved the selection of the top 100 mental apps on the two most popular app stores, Apple and Google. This search was carried out by using a list of mental health search terms such as “depression”, “anxiety”, “mood”, etc. Both paid and free apps were included in the study so long as they were available in English, focused on promoting well-being and/or the prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety, and existed as standalone services (i.e. not needing human support or any additional devices).

After the inclusion and exclusion criteria were implemented, 92 apps remained. The apps were divided into categories based on their primary function: mental health promotion, monitoring/tracking, intervention/treatment, and assessment/prevention. The 92 apps were then put through the APA evaluation process.

The APA evaluation model includes five main steps:

  1. Accessibility
  2. Integrity (security and privacy)
  3. Clinical and research evidence base
  4. User engagement
  5. Interoperability

These quality criteria are arranged hierarchically in the form of a pyramid:

Source: Rickard, N. S., Kurt, P., & Meade, T. (2022). Systematic assessment of the quality and integrity of popular mental health smartphone apps using the American Psychiatric Association’s app evaluation model. Front. Digit. Health, 4, 1003181. https://doi.org/10.3389/fdgth.2022.1003181)

At each step, apps were filtered out if they didn’t meet the required criteria.

In the end, Wysa was among the top three mental health apps. The criteria followed at each step of the process was as follows:

  • Step 1: Out of 92 apps, only 46 (Wysa included) were updated recently and were available on both app stores. This showed that 50% of the apps were accessible.
  • Step 2: Out of the remaining 46 apps, 9 (Wysa included) had a transparent privacy policy.
  • Step 3: Out of the remaining 9, only 7 apps (Wysa included) had a credible development team and performed research to evaluate the impact of the app.
  • Step 4: Only 3 apps (Wysa included) met the criteria of user engagement. This was 3% of the original pool of 92.

The apps were scored out of 14. Wysa received a score of 13, making it one of the top three apps according to the APA evaluation model. Among the apps that showed the highest level of quality, Wysa had a high visibility ranking, making it one of the most visible apps on the app stores.

According to the set criteria, Wysa’s ongoing work with the National Health Services (UK) and Mayden could have garnered it an additional point. In the last year, Wysa has been closely working with Mayden to increase safe access to patient data for clinicians and improve patient outcomes, thereby meeting the interoperability requirement of the APA model.

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff

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