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Psychological issues have always been a significant part of human life but during coronavirus pandemic and strict quarantine it becomes relevant more than ever making more and more people turn to mental health applications in terms of self-isolation.
Mental health services occupy a firm place on mobile app market, as demand constantly grows. According to statistics, people suffering from any mental health or substance use disorder constituted 13% of global population in 2017. Depression and anxiety disorders lead among mental health illnesses with 3,4% and 3,8% correspondently, and the figures are about to increase as people’s concern about psychological issues have risen over 40% in Europe and US.
Due to these factors, modern mobile market is stuffed full with varied solutions specializing in solving mental problems. The problem is that many of them lack proper scientific basis, thus supplying users with low- or average-quality services.
In this post, OpenGeeksLab will dwell on the most important aspects of mental health applications development, review best already implemented methods and solutions, and decide on what makes mental wellness apps beneficial for both users and owners.
Many apps on modern mobile market suffer lack of active users despite substantial number of downloads. Engaging customers is only half-way to success – you have to keep user’s loyalty, which is easier to reach with basic understanding of key niche KPIs.
To conduct a professional target audience analysis, one must think over how to keep user’s interest to make him/her use app on regular basis. It may be done via notifications or by making product a part of daily routine.
Besides, there exist vicarious factors to consider like cultural peculiarities, user background (scientifically grounded products or gamification model apps), demographics (e.g. mental health apps for kids, mental health apps for teens, mental health apps for students, etc.), financial issues (paid or free mental health apps).
Engaging experts as well as offering scientifically-based information is always a win-win option if we talk about mental health solutions. When it comes to individual wellness people become more cautious, thus choosing options backed with research, evidence, and stats.
Creating mental health care apps, business runners must take into consideration that therapists have already worked out methods of dealing with certain disorders that have undergone medical testing by practicing doctors. To design relevant digital solution entrepreneur is better to recreate one approved method within the app than give sketchy variants of all at once.
Offering mental health support apps entrepreneurs should guarantee proper in-app help supplied by professional therapists. Doctor support can become vital case of emergency, so ensuring its availability business owners care about their users being safe and healthy.
Supplying relevant and reliable information is a must for mental wellness apps, as even minor flaws may put in danger patient’s health. Unfortunately, many apps that help with mental health provide outdated recommendations, inaccurate treatment guidelines, etc. To avoid it, business owners must constantly keep content up-to-date, ensuring customers receive qualified help.
UI/UX standards for mental health care apps imply minimalism and usage simplicity. Design should not contain elaborated elements or bright colors as they can trigger disorder aggravation. Besides, pay additional attention to audial effects – avoid sharp loud sounds giving preference to mild relaxing melodies or sounds of nature.
Inclusion of self-monitoring features usually has positive impact onto individual’s progress because he/she learns to self-monitor potentially dangerous situations, spot triggers, hold control over mood patterns or sleep habits, work out effective reactions.
Dealing with mental health applications company should not forget about comprehensive testing. Usability tests must be detailed and precise, as mentally ill people may suffer attention problems, surplus sensitivity, etc. Engaging target audience representatives is a winning strategy to make service effective and maximally adapted to customer needs.
Motivation triggers are important for mental health support apps development, as majority of users do not have serious psychological illness meeting depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation. Giving small rewards (in-app coins, stickers, badges) make users feel better, as they get motivation. Gamification elements also motivate users to finish tasks they feel insecure about. Motivation triggers must be available for everyone because person can become disappointed if does not get desired reward.
People experiencing psychological disorders download apps that help with mental health to overcome troubles by sharing and acceptance. One more priority to take into account is creating safety and healthy communication, so users will not feel insulted or neglected. It can be implemented via strict moderation on forums or individual support in chats.
Mental health applications are primarily directed at delivering help to people having psychological issues. Niche provides varied opportunities: supporting people with disorders, connecting patients with therapists, motivating people to fight stress, depression, or bad habits.
Usually, apps are subdivided according to core methodology used or problem to solve (e.g. preventing depression, encouraging personal motivation, developing healthy schedule). Mental health test apps stand apart as they do not solve any issue: their main idea is to identify problem on time. Some applications may combine several solutions to roll out more comprehensive ones.
Mental disorder apps are designed specifically for users fighting serious illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, schizophrenia, etc. Apps of the kind usually use proven treatment methods including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), mood monitoring, mindfulness and cognitive skills training.
Digital psychological help providers have greatly changed mental health niche offering available alternatives to traditional therapist appointments or clinical treatment. Many patients can now feel free and secure with 24/7 online doctor within own smartphone. Profound medical monitoring and live person – therapist communication make treatment easy for both parties.
Successful examples vary due to diverse problems they solve. MoodTools, MoodKit, Talkspace, Happify are believed to provide helpful opportunities for dealing with depression. RR: Eating Disorder Management, Rise Up + Recover, Lifesum, Recovery Record represent effective ways of tackling eating disorders. Schizophrenia HealthStorylines and UCSF PRIME stand among good mental health apps supporting people with schizophrenia. Patients fighting PTSD may find useful such apps as PTSD Coach or Breathe2Relax. OCD issues are easier to tackle with such mental health apps as nOCD, Worry Watch, Live OCD Free, while iMoodJournal, T2 MoodTracker, and eMoods ensure coping with bipolar disorder.
Self-improvement apps aim at checking general psychological health and relieving slight problems like stress, anxiety, negative thinking, frustration, bad habits. These apps bet on meditation techniques or even connect users with psychologists to ensure proper selfcare solutions.
Mental self-improvement apps fall into several groups:
General-purpose apps specialize in maintaining user’s self-care via mood control and achieving success in developing healthy habits. Mental health apps may contain specified questions, community feature, checklists, etc.
Best examples are What’s Up and 7 Cups of Tea.
Fighting bad habits on one’s own can become an unbearable load, so many people need external help to make their life healthier. Apps supporting addiction recovery provide trackers, useful info, daily reminders, meditations, sharing experiences, supportive community.
Good mental health apps for addiction recovery include Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Quit That!, Squirrel Recovery.
Stress, frustration, and anxiety stand among most common problems modern people experience, thus apps helping to tackle these issues are in high demand. With numerous relaxation techniques and effective motivational plans services guarantee positive results that will make their users feel comfortable again.
Best applications to overcome stress are CBT Thought Record Diary, Mind Shift, Stop, Breathe & Think, Smiling Mind.
Sometimes one solution is equally applicable for mentally healthy users and users experiencing serious disorders. It becomes possible as one product offers varied functionality or services provided by different doctors, so anyone can find suitable selfcare option.
Talkspace stands among brightest multipurpose health self-care solution representatives.
After defining vector you want to implement in your mental health mobile app, you should decide on key features ensuring smooth performance and high user engagement. As a rule, good mental health apps provide following essential features:
Self-monitoring feature stands among key constituents of any mental health care app. It represents a tool tracking user’s mood patterns and stress level. Self-monitoring helps customers hold of their inner state and prevent psychological troubles before they progress or track symptoms if person has psychological disorder. Besides, the feature includes sleep and trigger trackers.
Sleep tracker is designed for users to build healthy schedule and get desired productivity via elaborating healthy sleep habits. App may be synchronized with sleep analyzing device to get most accurate metrics and design customized sleep plans.
Trigger checker feature enables user analyze stressful situations and work out appropriate responses. It may be done either independently or together with therapist.
Notifications and reminders become of prior importance when it comes to establishing regular schedule and encouraging self-monitoring. As a rule, reminders contain information about planned events (relaxation session, journal record, therapist appointment, taking medicines, etc.) but notifications can be also designed to promote customized offers, updates, or discounts.
However, one should be cautious with applying notification feature as users may find it irritating if excessive.
Sharing current moods, therapy achievements or even new info is vital for mentally ill people. Mental health applications usually allow share information via post on social media or directly with family members, confidant, or third-party attending doctor/other healthcare service provider.
Being a part of supportive community significantly influences individual perception and in majority of cases shows positive impact upon therapy. Having psychological disorder person may feel alone and depressed, as nobody in his/her circle shares this experience. Support groups may solve this problem, as one meets people passing through same situation. Within mental health support apps users can share their experiences and give advice in safe surroundings via anonymized forums, chats, messages.
Providing proper doctor settling user’s issue is vital for apps that help with mental health, as it influences app’s rating and reputation. Algorithm matches user requirements with appropriate therapist, ensuring interaction success.
Therapy dashboard represents an ultimate tool for doctors to manage their patient info. Dashboards are usually designed as web-apps, where therapists collect data from user smartphones (via question replies, shared journals or customized surveys) and monitor their progress. Having information on cases systemized, psychologist conducts therapy correctly and reach success as soon as possible.
Providing safe communication channel is important while designing mental health therapy apps, as patient – doctor interaction is performed mainly within the app itself. Functional scope must ensure varied possibilities for therapist and patient to connect including text, video, audio messages, or live mode so customers can choose the most suitable variety.
Apart from features listed above, mental health applications may provide additional functionality like calendars or checklists to raise self-monitor awareness, mood journals allowing tracking mood patterns, feelings, thoughts in varied forms (text, video, audio messages, etc.), meditations providing diverse tools for depression/anxiety relieving.
Personal data security stands among top priorities company should care about, as mental health app development deals with so-called ‘sensitive information’. Many mentally insecure customers prefer using digital therapy instead of traditional one, as app presupposes fewer participants involved (or even total exclusion of anybody except user himself/herself) and presumably has higher confidentiality level. However, to make customer expectations meet reality developers must follow certain legal regulatory guidelines like HIPAA, GDPR, and other standards that prevent risk of personal data being exposed.
Besides, healthcare services must be provided exclusively by certified therapists that have correspondent licenses. Hiring qualified experts help not only increase app efficiency but also avoid any civil or even criminal penalties. Therapists should also have basic knowledge in legal sphere of country in interest as mental health practices are usually liable to government at different levels.
Launching mental health applications provides varied revenue models, most popular of them being:
Freemium remains one among most popular revenue models with both entrepreneurs and customers, as it allows engaging different user sectors at once. As a rule, freemium app provides limited range of features for free, though if user wants more functions or content available, he or she must buy it via in-app purchase. Freemium strategy also may grant free version with all functionality available during limited trial period and after it finishes customer should pay to get app permanently.
Subscription revenue model implies performing regular payments to access constantly replenished content like continuous guides, videos, podcasts, etc. Rates and periods are up to product owners, though one app usually provides several regular payment plans or customized ones. Subscriptions are loved by customers who prefer using apps periodically, as they can spare money during intervals.
Paid apps strategy is similar to freemium one but user does not have access to app before actual purchase in correspondent app market. Some companies may also offer bonuses or free minor co-products if customer buys certain application.
Mental digital health market undoubtfully stands among most significant segments supporting society in these difficult times. If you have an interesting idea of how to help people fighting their mental issues, then it is high time to set it in action and contact us to develop an app that will become a lifesaver for your customers.
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