Mental health care and technology
As electronic devices and communications technologies take over our lives, it’s no surprise that the field of health care should also be turned inside out by the rapid changes in technology applicable to mental and physical health and health care.
The American Psychiatric Association comments that the explosion of mobile apps and wearable devices for use in mental health care is “unprecedented in the history of medicine”. They have established a task force to look at how these apps and other devices and software marketed to the general public can be evaluated and tested for quality, safety, and usefulness. In the fast-moving field of mental health related apps, it is impossible to give specific ratings for particular products. Instead, the APA is developing modules that can be applied by users to evaluate a particular app or device.
According to the Guardian, the behavioral and mental health software market was worth $1.32 billion in 2017 and is projected to more than double by 2026. But many of these products are based on little or no evidence and they are not subject to oversight by any regulatory agency. Some are intended as helps to wellness, such as those that coach users in meditation, developing good habits, or stress management, but others attempt to replace professional advice with checklists, chatbots or crowdsourcing. Let the buyer beware!
Tech Startups in Mental Health Care
In a huge and lucrative market like mental health care and technology, it was perhaps inevitable that Silicon Valley startups would form to pursue opportunities and fill real or perceived gaps. The Guardian reviewed three of the most likely-seeming startups and sees real possibilities in their models.
Two of the new companies, Two Chairs and Reflect, focus on the complicated process of finding a good “match” with a therapist who specializes in the concern you have and whose style and approach resonate with you. Patients fill out detailed questionnaires that allow a counselor to find practitioners in their database who might be appropriate care providers for your situation. All the information they collect is stored securely and is subject to HIPPP protections.
A third company, Kip, positions itself as the “glue” between client and therapist. In between face-to-face appointments, clients keep track of their moods, sleep patterns and other data to keep therapists updated about each person’s situation in real time. This allows them to spend less time on updates and rehashing the last appointment and more time on progress and next steps in each face-to-face encounter.
Moodsurfing has reviewed a number of apps and software over the years, but, like everyone else, we can’t keep on top of the rapidly changing mental health software scene. Programs like these that help us make sense of the huge mass of data that we now have access to are welcome.