Photo: Nathan Tatro, M.A.

“Ask an App Advisor” is a new feature of Psychiatric News in which members of APA’s App Advisor Expert Panel discuss the general use of mental health apps and answer APA members’ questions. This group is composed of APA members and other subject matter experts in mental health from related professions (for example, social work, psychology, nurse practitioners, informaticists) and patients with lived experience. The purpose of this panel is to maintain APA’s App Evaluation Model and to provide resources for professionals and patients to give them tools they can use when deciding what app is appropriate. The articles will also explore clinical, research, and policy interests of the panelists around mHealth (mobile health).

This month’s panelist is Julia Tartaglia, M.D. She began working with APA’s panel as its first medical student representative while attending Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where she earned her M.D. with distinction in medical innovation and entrepreneurship. She is now a psychiatry resident at Zucker Hillside Hospital at Northwell Health.

Q.    Did you use apps in medical school? If so, how were you introduced to them?

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A.    At the time, I wasn’t introduced to them as a part of the curriculum. While my medical school was very forward thinking and introduced a new elective on telemedicine, we did not have any formal or informal exposure to mobile apps for patient care. In clinical practice I did not see any mental health mobile apps being used by physicians or patients. As medical students, there are barriers to introducing new technologies in practice as well. As we are under direct supervision of attendings, I didn’t feel comfortable making recommendations about mobile app usage, especially without any experience or training in doing so, but there is definitely a need for medical school curricula to address the use of apps in clinical care. Personally, I did make use of medical education apps and mobile app tools for medicine, such as flashcard and question bank apps, anatomy apps, medication apps, and calculators.

Q.    Do you have an interest in a specific type of app?

A.    In general, I’m very interested in mobile apps that can be used for remote symptom monitoring and for eCBT (digitally based cognitive-behavioral therapy). One of my interests has been burnout and mental illness in the medical community. In medical school, I started working on developing an app for medical students. Burnout and mental illness are occurring at high rates among medical students, with 1 in 3 students meeting the criteria for clinical depression. Yet, medical students are less likely to seek help for emotional and mental health issues than peers in other professions. Further, many schools report that mental health resources are limited and cannot keep up with demand, with students often having to wait a month or more to schedule appointments with school mental health counselors.

In response to this, I’m developing a wellness app for medical students that addresses mental health through self-guided eCBT modules and virtual counseling by connecting students to mental health counselors. Our app format will increase access to mental health resources. It will provide a point-of-care solution for students combatting anxiety/depression who may hesitate to seek help via traditional models that schools provide, such as in-person counseling. Further, unlike existing depression/anxiety apps that offer generic advice and solutions, our eCBT modules will be custom designed to address common medical school stressors and cognitive biases, such as imposter syndrome and stress related to board exams and clinical rotations.

Check out future issues of Psychiatric News for more conversations with members of APA’s App Advisor Expert Panel. You can also review APA’s sample app evaluations and learn more about our App Evaluation Model. If you have a question for the panel, send an email to ■

APA’s App Advisor page can be accessed here.

Also, APA has launched a series of webinars during which APA members can ask questions of APA’s App Advisor Panel. Register here.

Nathan Tatro, M.A., is deputy director of digital health in APA’s Department of Practice Management and Delivery Systems Policy.

APA’s App Panel Offers Guidance on Digital Tools | Psychiatric News

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