The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a tool that I have been trained to use to do my as a clinical social worker. Recently, it has undergone some controversial changes, but I am hoping that the American Psychiatric Association also considers technology for disseminating their product.
DSM-5 was announced over the past weekend with significant changes made in diagnosing different mental disorders. While some changes were controversial, needed, or anticipated, the fact of the matter is that the DSM-IV TR will become obsolete next year. The DSM has been described as the Bible for mental health professionals, which would be true if this book was fiercely debated, questioned, and if controversy derived from how the dogma was interpreted… oh wait.
Here is a nifty list of things that I would like to see happen with the release of the DSM, from the perspective of the social work tech professional!
1. Ditch The Paper
While a DSM looks fancy, professional, and elite on your desktop or mantle, paper is going out of style like the pager and CDs – a relic of the past.
Tablets and e-readers are the contemporary way of taking in and transporting information.
2. Embracing of the Freemium Model
Many companies in the tech industry offer the Freemium model – free information or services provided to would-be users, with premium features costing extra. If DSM-5 were to implement this, it would expand on the current state of information dissemination with DSM-IV-TR: information freely available on the internet, with the solid text book costing more.
I would love to see premium features include moderately priced: ebook version, apps, and updates for the life of the product.
3. A decent And Up-to-Date E-book version of the DSM
Having seen and played with the APA’s official $65 app for the DSM-IV-TR on iOS, I find myself wanting so much more. I opine that the app is more of a reference tool, than it the actual textbook. Should APA be serious about an ebook, functionality I would like to see includes:
- The ability to highlight and annotate text
- Copy and paste
- An aesthetic visual layout
- Layout which includes, “Reference” or “Diagnostic Criteria” sections in addition to the full textbook. This will allow a user to switch back-and-forth between reading the full text published and only accessing the diagnostic criteria without having to sift through everything else.
4. An All-In-One Price
If freemium is not embraced, I would like to see an all encompassing price for the DSM, where I would not only get a hard, a digital copy, and a code that is a key to access to a functional and speedy app that I could use to obtain diagnostic criteria.
5. Reasonably-Priced Licensing for app Developers.
In tandem with their own offering, it would be nice to see that American psychiatric Association license out their intellectual-property, at a reasonable price, to app developers. Before it got yanked, Shrinkster was a great app that was offered at a free price, only giving out diagnostic titles and their codes.
If the APA wanted to make additional revenue, I would not have minded paying a premium to get a fully functional app from the creators of Shrinkster that not only gave me DSM codes, but could help me out with provisionally diagnosing mental disorders right away.
If you were to look in your mobile application store of choice for apps surrounding a service such as Wikipedia, Evernote, or chat (e.g. Google Chat, AIM), or Twitter, you can see the myriad of services that are enhanced by developers being allowed to use their creativity – and everyone makes money while the consumer is (mostly) happy!
I originally said, five, but here are two more bonus things to hope for!
Rather than wait six years for a text revision (the time-span between DSM-IV and DSM-IV-TR), it would make sense that a digital version of DSM be updated periodically and with greater frequency, upon completion of whatever evidenced-based research validates or invalidates the published material. If change is constant, it makes sense to revise with greater frequency.
OMG, WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY TO DO THIS!
7. A Small-to-Nominal Update Fee for DSM-5-TR
Apple, in their infinite wisdom, allows for users to update their Macintosh Operating System versions, straight from their computers. You pay them their $30, download from the App Store, and voilà you have the brand-new operating system (and all of its features) on your computer. It’s not the $200 that Microsoft charges with each incarnation of their product and is done painlessly. Bugs are squashed with free updates to the latest software version and the operating system is enhanced.
The DSM (and all ebooks for that matter) should operate on the same manner – but they don’t. Why? If there’s money to be had…
It would be ideal that the same model operates with the DSM. Pay the premium price for the product, and each “text revision” or version also cost you something reasonable. In between versions, users would get updates to fix typos, update any out of date information, squash bugs, and quell outstanding controversies.
As social workers, our values of what is common-sense, cost-effective, or ethical often competes with a politics and the bottom-line of a corporation. This may be derived from the larger culture, which is driven by looking good and making money. In short, the aforementioned list is desirable and practical wants, but without consumers (i.e. you) voicing your opinion of what you will pay for, this list may not come to fruition.
The one desired outcome that I truly hope comes to fruition is app development and licensing (#5). As evidenced by other apps that have been released to assist mental health professionals and by the myriad of apps for Twitter that are aesthetically beautiful, I truly hope that we can have access to our diagnostic tool in different flavors.