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Emerging Wearable Technology For Mental Health

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Mental health is an important point of focus in our lives today. More of us are aware of the effect it can have upon our lives and how destructive illness can be. Around 1 in 5 adults experienced mental illness in 2018. While we are far from removing all stigma from this vital issue, it is increasingly becoming a point of open conversation. Many of us understand that talking about our mental health can not just help our own state of mind, but makes it easier for others to open up.

As a result, there has been greater enthusiasm for developing solutions and techniques that help us to handle our mental health better. This development isn’t only from the perspective of chronic illnesses and severe crises, but also for daily maintenance in a world that sees 77% of people experiencing psychological symptoms of stress regularly.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the existing and emerging technologies that are used to combat mental illness. What tools are proving to be effective, and how do they function? Equally, what are the challenges that their use can present?

Let’s take a closer look at some of the existing and emerging technologies that are used to combat mental illness. #mentalhealth #wearables #healthcare #tech https://www.techbooky.com/mental-health-wearable-technology/ Click To Tweet

Personal Monitoring

Much of mental health care is about personal responsibility. While care professionals and families can have a role to play in crisis prevention and treatment of symptoms, in the end, we each have the responsibility to communicate the subjective experiences of our mental state. However, it’s not always easy for us to be vigilant, which is why personal monitoring devices and apps have begun to emerge as a solution.  

Most of us are already familiar with how wearables currently allow us to monitor the state of our physical health. Smartwatches have become a must-have item in health and fitness, collecting a range of data that includes eating habits, heart rates, and activity measurements for various activities. This goes beyond simple analysis of our fitness regimens and provides holistic insights into our wellbeing, which is why they have also become useful for mental health monitoring.   

Many smartwatches today come packaged with app suites that help users to monitor their sleep cycles, pulse fluctuations, and blood oxygen levels. This is all data that can give insights into how the user is coping, particularly concerning anxiety and stress. Going a little deeper than this, however, is Cognition Kit, an app designed for use on both smartwatches and smartphones. It sets cognitive tests that can be completed several times a day, capturing fluctuations in mood and mental state. It has been found to capture symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder with a similar rate of accuracy to those tests administered in clinical settings. This real-time data not only gives the patient early warnings of potential issues, but can also form part of a more comprehensive treatment plan with therapists, or assist researchers.

It has been found to capture symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder with a similar rate of accuracy to those tests administered in clinical settings. #mentalhealth #tech https://www.techbooky.com/mental-health-wearable-technology/ Click To Tweet

Treatment

One of the primary advances of the rise of reliable mobile technology over the past couple of decades is the ability to make telehealth practical. Telemedicine works by utilizing a virtual appointment system; patients connect to their doctors via a secure portal, conducting their sessions in much the same way they would in person. Many use this for minor issues, reducing the need for the patient to take time out of their day to head to the clinic, and minimizes pressure on stretched medical resources. However, it also plays a key role in long term patient monitoring and treatment, making it an essential tool for mental health.

Particularly at a time in which COVID-19 has meant a necessary reduction of in-person services, telehealth supported by mobile technology can be a lifeline. Therapists and mental health professionals can use video calls via smartphones to assess a patient’s emotional state, reviewing the physiological signs of depression or stress. Wearables also provide useful additional data for these assessments; studies have begun to test how GPS tracking can be used to review the patient’s movements and activities and assess them for signs of oncoming depression.

There is a shortage of qualified mental health therapists in the U.S., meaning that any technology that can help patients to be treated in their own homes while not actively in crisis is vital. One of the main issues that therapists can come across with patients is adherence to taking medications. Abilify MyCite is a new entry into the wearables market, and its creators posit that up to 75% of patients with schizophrenia don’t take their medications as directed. Their sensor patch, worn on the torso, connects with sensors on an ingestible pill. Data is then sent to an app on the patient’s smartphone, providing insights and reminders on what the patient’s needs are each day, and shared with their healthcare team for condition management.  

Data is then sent to an app on the patient’s smartphone, providing insights and reminders on what the patient’s needs are each day #mentalhealth #tech #treatment #wearables https://www.techbooky.com/mental-health-wearable-technology/ Click To Tweet

The Drawbacks

Wearables can offer some exciting solutions to the challenges both patients and healthcare professionals face. However, that’s not to say that this technology is without its risks. To ensure it is used correctly, and patients remain safe, we must also address the issues that reliance upon tech solutions can bring.

Accuracy and interpretation of data may well be an issue here. In admitting that there’s no real one size fits all approach to mental health, we must also note that data regarding sleeping patterns, geographical movements, and heart rates, are subjective signs. By giving patients access to apps that correlate this data, there is also still a reliance upon the patient to determine whether these signs are indeed problematic. Not to mention that accuracy of this data can be dependent upon whether the device is being used correctly and consistently.

This onus on the patient to also share information with their clinician raises another salient issue. Many patients are still resistant to the concept of this kind of self monitoring, and requiring patients to keep tabs on themselves in this way could conceivably affect the vital trust between patient and therapist. Additionally, as monitoring sensors are often connected to phones via Bluetooth, there’s a question of data security that needs to form part of the conversation with patients.

As monitoring sensors are often connected to phones via Bluetooth, there’s a question of data security #data #datasecurity #mentalhealth https://www.techbooky.com/mental-health-wearable-technology/ Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Mental health is an issue that is forefront in our contemporary world. Wearable devices — smartwatches, apps, even censored medications — have the potential to be used in the monitoring of patients and treatment of symptoms. However, we must also be wary of the risks this can present, and seek to use these on an advisory basis rather than replacing expert help.

 

Author Bio
Beau Peters is a creative professional with a lifetime of experience in service and care. As a manager, he’s learned a slew of tricks of the trade that he enjoys sharing with others who have the same passion and dedication that he brings to his work. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading and trying new things.  
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