If there is one industry that benefits most from this era of innovation, it would be the healthcare industry. Progress to help people recover from severe health issues is made every day, and technology offers tremendous help in screening, treating, and helping patients recover.
However, most of these innovations focus on physical health, and much too little importance is given to mental health, which could also benefit greatly from the technology we have at our disposal today. Mental health is still often stigmatized, and people are looking for more accessible and affordable means to improve or maintain their mental wellbeing.
Reports show we are navigating through a global mental health crisis, with approximately 15.5% of the world's population being affected by mental health issues. These alarming numbers should prompt us to make more progress in destigmatizing mental health issues and providing better, more accurate treatment to patients.
Here are some examples of how technology can help improve mental health care and make treatment more accessible for those who need it.
Even though we are a long way before robots can become therapists, the rapid progress made in artificial intelligence technology can help make mental health care a little more accessible. People tend to open up much easier to artificial intelligence systems, probably because they feel they are less judged or looked down upon than they would be by a real human being.
Artificial intelligence can help provide emotional support for people in need, serving at least as a means of comfort and a place for them to share their thoughts.
In therapy, AI can be used to collect data for research or screen the patient to provide more accurate treatment. Some of these platforms can even connect patients with the right therapists by having some basic pre-treatment conversations with them and gathering information to make the right recommendations.
The Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville created a program that was able to predict if a patient admitted for self-harm or suicide attempts was going to have another attempt within the next week. The program collected data from over 5,000 patients and was able to make predictions with 84% accuracy.
Telemedicine and Online Therapy
Due to a shortage of mental healthcare professionals, therapy is not accessible to everyone who needs it, and that is especially true in small cities and rural areas. Through the use of technology, patients could now have access to professional therapists who practice telemedicine or online therapy.
This makes therapy more comfortable for patients, as they can talk to the therapist while sitting on the couch in the living room or while on lunch break at work. When they are not in the same room with the therapist, people seem to open up more, and it's much easy for them to share their feelings.
Telemedicine is also very convenient and provides a fast method of communication in case of emergency. If the patient is not feeling well and needs to schedule an emergency meeting, this can be done on the spot, provided that the therapist is also available.
Mobile Apps for Health Monitoring
We rely on our smartphones and their apps to do most of the things we need in a day, such as ordering food, getting a cab, making appointments, and chatting with friends, so why wouldn't we use them to keep track of our mental health as well? Technology is right at our fingertips, and we must use it to our advantage.
Fitness and wellness apps have been on a continuous rise, and mental health apps are coming in strongly. Chatting apps that allow people to share their stories and do group therapy, apps that help patients recognize and keep triggers under control, as well as those that monitor vital signs are just a few of the methods our smartphones can be put to better use.
Online therapists can also use apps to keep better communication with their patients, organize online group therapy sessions, talk to patients, provide them access to their treatment history, and sharing important advice about general mental health care.
Access to More Accurate Treatment
Mental health issues can't be left untreated, and patients need access to the most accurate type of treatment that can help their condition improve. This includes therapy, counseling, group meeting, medication, and other alternative options the patient and therapist may agree upon.
The problem with medication for mental health issues is they often have severe side effects, which include drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, and mood swings. In order for these side effects to be avoided, therapists must prescribe very specific types of treatment, taking into consideration the patient's medical history.
Access to more types of treatment can help people discover better ways to improve their lives and receive the help and aid they need, without having to battle side effects. One of these types of treatment is CBD, which is most popularly taken either sublingually, in the form of oil, or inhaled through the use of dry herb vaporizers. CBD is shown to be effective in aiding symptoms of mental health illnesses, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, and is very easy to use. For example, Delta 8 flower buds can be smoked or inhaled through dry herb vaporizers, providing beneficial effects and a fast method of intake.
Reducing Human Error
Artificial intelligence proved it was able to detect symptoms of depression or PTSD by analyzing facial expressions, as well as speech patterns. Mental health professionals can use this technology to make better diagnoses and provide accurate treatment to patients without letting personal opinion or experiences influence their decision.
Because therapy meetings can't last for more than a few hours, a busy therapist can easily miss early signs of issues and only observe them when they are fully manifesting. Such technology can serve as a backup method of screening and remind therapists when it may be time to explore deeper issues with their patients.
Mental health is a very subjective topic, which is why it often does not get too much attention. You can't exactly take a blood test to find out if you have a mental health issue, but here is where technology could step in. Accurate algorithms that can provide objective proof a certain person is experiencing a specific issue, making it easier to seek treatment and find ways to lead a healthier life.