• Dr. Akanksha Sharma and Arvind Sekhar

Adopting technology-enabled patient R&D tools as a complement to traditional methods of Psychiatry


Image Source: Aziz Acharki


"There’s a way to do it better - Find it!” -Thomas A. Edison


Technology is transforming the landscape of the mental healthcare ecosystem and improving patient outcomes through improvements in diagnosis, disorder management and social enablement. It offers prospects for rethinking and designing delivery of services in a way that improves decision making, destigmatizes mental illnesses and augments self-management in patients.


The use of new technologies presents the healthcare industry with opportunities to subsidize and streamline greater proportion of care to the patients who need it most [1]. Private practitioners, hospitals and public service stake-holders have recognized that as all generations continue to increase their comfort in the use of technology, the environments where mental healthcare can be offered will continue to expand [2].


Some of the technological advances in psychiatry include but are not limited to

  1. Digital phenotyping via wearables , sensors and smartphone apps

  2. Telepsychiatry for patient assessment and a therapeutic modality

  3. Virtual reality for patient engagement, which has proved to be significantly beneficial in anxiety disorders.

  4. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT

One such advance in psychiatry is that of digital phenotyping. The new science of digital phenotyping uses data collected from smart devices to build rich, personalised digital picture of behaviour, track markers of depression and anxiety, develop new ways to diagnose illness, choose effective treatments and detect relapse before it occurs.


Conventional psychiatry is essentially reliant on traditional interviewing and self-reporting for diagnoses of disorders. However, digital phenotyping has considerably increased the possibility of effective personalised treatment routines, and distilled screening. Owing to the extensive use of smartphones globally, the potential of digital phenotyping for healthcare applications is tremendous. It helps in objectively measuring sleep and mood changes using sensors for tracking location and activities as subtle as typing, along with speech recognition. This can significantly improve the precision of prognosis by reducing the dependency on self-reporting and incidental findings.


As the application of digital phenotyping in psychiatry is still in its infancy, the merits of this breakthrough need to be balanced against challenges such as privacy, data monitoring and handling, clinical validation and accuracy of the data captured. Though the benefits are promising and are of paramount importance, it is imperative that comprehensive research be done for proper implementation of these tools as adjuncts to conventional practice. Snowdrop, our app that tracks behaviour and symptoms to aid better understanding and management of mental illnesses, is conceptualised to champion the benefits of digital phenotyping whilst adequately accounting for the aforementioned concerns.


It is important to emphasise that the adoption of technology in the field of psychiatry is not meant to replace traditional practices but to reinforce their results by providing authentic data which when analysed can provide factual evidence that could serve as the bedrock for a specific diagnosis.


At BrainSightAI, we are at the forefront of embedding technology in our products and services to enable richer engagement between clinicians and patients. These changes may prove to be a fundamental paradigm shift in the fields of neuroscience and psychiatry.


References:

  1. Steinhubl, Muse & Topol, '"Can mobile health technologies transform health care?", 2013

  2. Greg M. Kramer, Julie T. Kinn and Matt C. Mishkind," Legal, Regulatory, and Risk Management Issues in the Use of Technology to Deliver Mental Health Care ", National Center for Telehealth and Technology, 2015





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