A proportion of reviews for bipolar disorder mental health apps containing “wishlists” indicate that consumer needs are not adequately addressed by the apps that are currently available, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Jennifer Nicholas, BSc, from the Black Dog Institute at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues sought to identify what consumers consider useful content for mental health management apps, identify unmet needs, and understand user expectations of mental health apps for bipolar disorder.

The researchers used publically available consumer reviews of 48 apps for bipolar disorder, which provided a total of 2,173 reviews. The reviews were coded and analyzed, and the results were presented as a quantitative summary of the 9 major and minor themes and as a qualitative synthesis of key thematic findings.

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The analysis showed 5 themes from the reviews of the symptom monitoring apps. These included:

  • Laudatory talk, defined as comments regarding the app’s benefits, including helpfulness and successful design features (74% of reviews).
  • Unfavorable feedback, defined as negative reviews concerning unmet needs, privacy and technical issues, and potential dangers of app use (25.54% of reviews).
  • Conceptions of community, which refers to both communities of users with mental ill-health accessed with the app and a community created among app users and developers (24.25% of reviews).
  • Wishlist features, defined as features requested by users (17.53% of reviews).
  • Apps and therapy, app use within clinical care (10.58% of reviews).

The researchers also identified 4 minor themes, including app cost, privacy and data security, comparisons with traditional monitoring, and evidence-based mobile health.

“Consumers value content that is helpful, supportive, and easy to use, and they are integrating apps into their health management without necessarily considering evidence-base or the clinical effectiveness of the tool,” the study authors noted.

“Such consumer insights are vital to our ability to be competitive in the unregulated app store environment but also reveal the need to balance user preferences and clinical relevance. Indeed, integrated knowledge translation strategies involving consumers in all stages of mobile health research may be critical to ensuring uptake and continued use, and results indicate such research strategies would be acceptable to consumers.”


  1. Nicholas J, Fogarty AS, Boydell K, Christensen H. The reviews are in: a qualitative content analysis of consumer perspectives on apps for bipolar disorder. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19(4):e105. doi:10.2196/jmir.7273