Digital mental health: challenges and next steps

Katharine A Smith, Charlotte Blease, Maria Faurholt-Jepsen, Joseph Firth, Tom Van Daele, Carmen Moreno, Per Carlbring, Ulrich W Ebner-Priemer, Nikolaos Koutsouleris, Heleen Riper, Stephane Mouchabac, John Torous, Andrea Cipriani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Digital innovations in mental health offer great potential, but present unique challenges. Using a consensus development panel approach, an expert, international, cross-disciplinary panel met to provide a framework to conceptualise digital mental health innovations, research into mechanisms and effectiveness and approaches for clinical implementation. Key questions and outputs from the group were agreed by consensus, and are presented and discussed in the text and supported by case examples in an accompanying appendix. A number of key themes emerged. (1) Digital approaches may work best across traditional diagnostic systems: we do not have effective ontologies of mental illness and transdiagnostic/symptom-based approaches may be more fruitful. (2) Approaches in clinical implementation of digital tools/interventions need to be creative and require organisational change: not only do clinicians and patients need training and education to be more confident and skilled in using digital technologies to support shared care decision-making, but traditional roles need to be extended, with clinicians working alongside digital navigators and non-clinicians who are delivering protocolised treatments. (3) Designing appropriate studies to measure the effectiveness of implementation is also key: including digital data raises unique ethical issues, and measurement of potential harms is only just beginning. (4) Accessibility and codesign are needed to ensure innovations are long lasting. (5) Standardised guidelines for reporting would ensure effective synthesis of the evidence to inform clinical implementation. COVID-19 and the transition to virtual consultations have shown us the potential for digital innovations to improve access and quality of care in mental health: now is the ideal time to act.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere300670
JournalBMJ mental health
Issue number1
Early online date17 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2023


  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders/diagnosis


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