One of the most inspiring facets of modern technology innovations is the way that it intersects health and medicine, not only to allow people to live better lives, but saving lives. While the most immediate applications of digital healthcare that spring to mind are often related to physical health, it also has several hopeful and potentially powerful implications for mental and emotional health. Here are six ways that digital healthcare can revolutionize the future of mental health.
- A sad truth is that at least 30% of people with mental illness never seek care. One of the most widely acknowledged reasons for this is the negative stigma attached to mental illness. People often worry that others will view mental illness as a result of personal shortcomings in a way that physical ailments usually don’t. Digital healthcare, and in particular the potential for one-to-one patient care from the home, increases the privacy involved with seeking help and can remove the stigma surrounding it.
- Another major setback is the difficulty of accessing the mental health care needed. The closest professional might not specialize in the needs of a potential patient, and not all doctors or therapists are covered by all types of insurance. Digital mental healthcare could allow patients to access care regardless of location, and maybe even asynchronously.
- One of the most difficult aspects of living with mental illness is struggling with feelings of isolation. While applications already exist to connect people coping with depression, the future of digital healthcare can increase the visibility of how widespread mental health issues can be while simultaneously protecting the privacy of the individual. It’s all about perspective and how technological innovations can help patients realize they are not alone.
- The rapid expansion of information technology in the 21st century has led to an increase in patient engagement and awareness. Patients no longer exist in an information vacuum, solely reliant on a doctor as the source of information when it comes to understanding their condition. People can access information on their diagnoses using a simple Google searches, WebMD, and specific disease apps.
- If a mental healthcare technology is going to be a success, it needs to be mobile. Apart from being the most convenient and accessible medium, mental health issues can be triggered by a variety of stimuli and being able to quickly respond is essential. Many popular mental health-related apps specialize in just this, with apps like Pacifica and MoodTools enabling active self-monitoring of symptoms and moods, while combining proven Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques.
- Perhaps most exciting is the emerging intersection of mental healthcare and AI. A study in May 2015 ran patient speech patterns through a computerized algorithm to predict psychosis with 100% accuracy -- well beyond the success of more traditional methods. AI that tracks such things as eye patterns and attention levels has already been used in other studies to predict instances of ADHD or autism.
It’s clear that what lies on the horizon is enough to give patients hope for a future, where mental care is understandable, affordable and most of all accessible.