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Are Mobile Phones and Handheld Computers Being Used to Enhance Delivery of Psychiatric Treatment?: A Systematic Review

Ehrenreich, Benjamin BA; Righter, Bryan MD, MPH; Rocke, Di Andra MD, MPH; Dixon, Lisa MD, MPH; Himelhoch, Seth MD, MPH

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: November 2011 - Volume 199 - Issue 11 - p 886-891
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182349e90
Original Articles

The rapid diffusion of communication technology has provided opportunities to enhance the delivery of mental health care. We used Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines to conduct a qualitative review of randomized controlled trials that reported on the efficacy of mobile phones or handheld computers used to enhance the treatment of psychiatric disorders. We identified eight randomized controlled trials. Five studies used mobile phones to target smoking cessation. Those receiving the smoking cessation intervention were significantly more likely to achieve abstinence compared with those under the control condition. Three studies used non-personal digital assistant (PDA) handheld computers targeting anxiety. Compared with those in the control condition, those who received the non-PDA handheld computer intervention had significant improvement in anxiety outcomes in only one of the three studies. The limited number of rigorous evaluations of mobile phone, PDA, or smartphone interventions for mental health problems underscores the opportunities to enhance our interventions using the available tools of contemporary technology.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Send reprint requests to Seth Himelhoch, MD, MPH, Division of Services Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 737 West Lombard St, Room 516, Baltimore, MD 21212. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.