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PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Telepsychiatry practiced by psychiatrists is evidence-based, regulated, private, and effective in diverse settings. The use of telemedicine has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic as people routinely obtain more healthcare services online. At the same time, there has been a rapid increase in the number of digital mental health startups that offer various services including online therapy and access to prescription medications. These digital mental health firms advertise directly to the consumer primarily through digital advertising. The purpose of this narrative review is to contrast traditional telepsychiatry and the digital mental health market related to online therapy. RECENT FINDINGS: In contrast to standard telepsychiatry, most of the digital mental health startups are unregulated, have unproven efficacy, and raise concerns related to self-diagnosis, self-medicating, and inappropriate prescribing. The role of digital mental health firms for people with serious mental illness has not been determined. There are inadequate privacy controls for the digital mental health firms, including for online therapy. We live in an age where there is widespread admiration for technology entrepreneurs and increasing emphasis on the role of the patient as a consumer. Yet, the business practices of digital mental health startups may compromise patient safety for profits. There is a need to address issues with the digital mental health startups and to educate patients about the differences between standard medical care and digital mental health products.

Original publication




Journal article


Curr Psychiatry Rep

Publication Date





263 - 272


Digital mental health, Startups, Telemedicine, Telepsychiatry, Humans, Mental Health, Telemedicine, Psychiatry, COVID-19, Pandemics