Digital health developments and drawbacks: a review and analysis of top-returned apps for bipolar disorder

Sarah Lagan, Abinaya Ramakrishnan, Evan Lamont, Aparna Ramakrishnan, Mark Frye, John Torous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Although a growing body of literature highlights the potential benefit of smartphone-based mobile apps to aid in self-management and treatment of bipolar disorder, it is unclear whether such evidence-based apps are readily available and accessible to a user of the app store. Results: Using our systematic framework for the evaluation of mental health apps, we analyzed the accessibility, privacy, clinical foundation, features, and interoperability of the top-returned 100 apps for bipolar disorder. Only 56% of the apps mentioned bipolar disorder specifically in their title, description, or content. Only one app’s efficacy was supported in a peer-reviewed study, and 32 apps lacked privacy policies. The most common features provided were mood tracking, journaling, and psychoeducation. Conclusions: Our analysis reveals substantial limitations in the current digital environment for individuals seeking an evidence-based, clinically usable app for bipolar disorder. Although there have been academic advances in development of digital interventions for bipolar disorder, this work has yet to be translated to the publicly available app marketplace. This unmet need of digital mood management underscores the need for a comprehensive evaluation system of mental health apps, which we have endeavored to provide through our framework and accompanying database (

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number39
JournalInternational Journal of Bipolar Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Apps
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Smartphones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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