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Mental Health Digital Technology: The Need to Jumpstart its Slow Progress

a photo of a brain illustration on surreal background while there is a need to advance mental health digital technology

In the great health care debates, mental health is often one of the first items to be cut. The uncertainty has led to a situation in which there has been relatively little innovation and modernization over the years. Yet, it is a field in which technology could be hugely helpful—saving cost and improving lives. Many of the bold ideas that could impact mental health are already used in other fields. A bit of bold action to adapt them could lead to a bold impact on people everywhere. And advancing the development of mental health digital technology is a must.

Mental health has been impacted by the way the Affordable Health Care Act debate played out. The question has those in the mental health industry and who need mental health care concerned with the long-term funding for these programs. The issue may be political—however, the results affect a wide range of people. In the debate about how to reduce costs, mental health appears to be a low priority item in terms of health insurance coverage. Additionally, people already suffering from mental health illness don’t seek help when they need it, to avoid having it affect their health insurance costs. However, according to the National Alliance for Mental Health, approximately 1 of every 5 adults has a mental health problem.

The Need To Develop Mental Health Digital Technology

In terms of utilizing innovative technology through digital health apps, products, and devices, there has not been much development. The current initiative is focused on wearables, as well as on early detection of diseases and health monitoring. Unfortunately, there is not much initiative today in making apps specifically for mental health uses.

The truth is that these tools are already available, but developers have not taken a look at mental health as a field where these digital tools can be useful. Such is the plight of a mental health digital technology. This situation may seem short-sighted, but it’s considered an oversight more than anything else. Yet, there are fields of study and specializations in IT which can be utilized today to help professionals treat or handle mental health patients.

Journaling for Mental Health

A journaling app is important for the patient to keep monitoring how they feel, as well as get an idea of their mental status. They can talk to the app or key in what they are feeling. A journal app should be secure and, at the same time, portable and accessible across other platforms. The therapist can access the data and keep track of their patient’s behavior between visits. The visits remain as important as ever. But with the constant monitoring via the journals, therapists can have a better idea of what is happening daily and if the patient is improving.

a photo of a therapist holding a notebook and and male patient holding a phone while speaking to each other amid the need to jumpstart the development of mental health digital technology
With mental health digital technology, a journal app can be a helpful tool for both patient and therapist!

Artificial Intelligence and Health Care

There is a large push towards artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially as these are already being used for smart devices and smart homes. Nevertheless, when coupled with a smart device, an app with a dedicated AI can effectively help patients. One problem patients have is the need to talk to their therapists on a regular basis, as well as the need to talk to their therapists in an emergency situation. One possible solution to this issue involves having an AI app with customized or scripted answers that can respond to a patient in distress.

AI can be taught to talk to the patient when the need arises. The script can follow standard discussion threads, which are designed to help alleviate the patient’s situation. With the help of AI and ML, these threads can be tailored to a person’s specific needs.

Mental Health Digital Technology: Big Data Yields Health Rewards

During this process, there is a ton of new data available for the AI to mine and comprehend. This case is due to the interactions that occur between the patient and the AI, allowing a patient profile to be gathered. Big data is what powers AI. One aspect of big data is that by using an app, this information can be mined by the therapist as well. With careful study of the data, the therapist can better understand clues about a person’s mental health, thus helping the therapist prepare for the patient’s future visits.

These bold ideas can change the lives of many mental health patients across the country. It is time to take bold action and implement these ideas to improve the lives of 1 in 5 people in America.

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