Efficacy of mobile application interventions for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: A systematic review
Wickersham A., Petrides PM., Williamson V., Leightley D.
© The Author(s) 2019. Background: Many adults with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are unable to access healthcare services for treatment due to logistical, social, and attitudinal barriers. Interventions delivered via mobile applications (apps) may help overcome these barriers. Objective: The aim of this study is to systematically evaluate the most recent evidence from trials investigating the efficacy of mobile apps for treating PTSD. Methods: PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, PsycINFO, and Medline were searched in February 2018. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were included if they quantitatively evaluated the efficacy of a mobile app for treating PTSD as part of the primary aim. Findings were presented in a narrative synthesis. Results: In the five identified RCTs, the use of app-based interventions appeared to be associated with reductions in PTSD symptoms. However, the strength of evidence for this association appeared to be inconsistent, and there was little evidence that those using the apps experienced greater reductions in PTSD symptoms than those in control conditions. Nonetheless, there was some evidence that app-based interventions are both a feasible and acceptable treatment pathway option. Conclusions: Included studies were often limited by small sample sizes, brief intervention, and follow-up periods, and self-reported measures of PTSD. Evidence for the efficacy of mobile interventions for treating PTSD was inconclusive, but promising. Healthcare professionals should exercise caution in recommending app-based interventions until the potentially adverse effects of app use are better understood and larger-scale studies have taken place.