Technology advancement has brought innovative solutions supporting data collection and mental health services. Today, researchers, doctors, and patients are using mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones, and cellphones to gain access to help, keep track of their progress, and take care of their mental well-being.
Apart from simplifying access to mental health, technology has made it effective. For instance, as long as a patient can access a mobile device that can send a text message, they can talk to a mental health professional at any given time.
In addition, mental health applications for tablets and smartphones have been developed to take care of patients. These applications can use sensors built-in to their host devices to monitor patients and collect data used for their treatment.
Technology is transforming the delivery of mental health services in many ways. Some of them include:
Use of mental health software
Mental health software applications are playing a crucial role in joining up different organisations. These software applications collect and store patient data, something that streamlines the delivery of mental health services.
When a patient moves to a different mental health organization, the new organization can easily find the patient data using these software applications. This eliminates inaccurate diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, mental health professionals can use these software applications to track the progress of their patients, coordinate rehabilitation, treatments, and counseling, and ensure that they have met any regulatory requirements.
Technology has led to the development of self-management applications that allow users to provide the applications with information. In return, the application provides feedback based on the requirements of the patient.
For instance, a patient can use these applications to set up reminders for their medical appointments. They can also use them to come up with tools that help in the management of conditions such as sleep disorders, anxiety, and stress.
Other applications come with tools that track things such as blood pressure, breathing patterns, heartbeat rate, and behavioural patterns of patients. With such data, mental health professionals can respond to emergencies quickly to avoid any disasters.
Data is the big thing driving innovation and the adoption of technological applications. Today, organisations are using data to learn about trends in the market, their customer behaviour, and to predict future changes in customer demands.
Similarly, mental health professionals are relying on data to improve the quality of services provided to their patients. They do not even need the help of their patients when collecting this data.
This is because technology has made it possible for applications to collect data from mental health patients without their (the patients’) input. This helps in the creation of better treatment approaches as well as aiding research.
Virtual reality (VR)
Virtual reality has played a crucial role in mitigating the problems that have always faced the traditional face-to-face treatment of mental health conditions. It is classified into two, augmented reality and full virtual reality.
Augmented reality employs the use of content generated by machines to superimpose a patient’s view of their real surroundings. On the other hand, full virtual reality involves the use of a complete environment in 3D generated by machines.
Mental health professionals are now using VR to help multiple patients at the same time. In addition, patients do not have to leave their homes when getting help. This has transformed the delivery of mental health services and made them more accessible.
Tracking of passive symptoms
Technology has led to the development of applications that can use smart device sensors to collect data.
Even though research indicates that digital trackers for mental health are not yet fit for purpose, they can record social interactions, movement patterns, speed, vocal tone, and behaviour, among others.
More research is ongoing to make it possible for these applications to analyse the collected data and determine the state of mind of a patient in real-time. With that, the applications will easily determine the behavioural patterns of patients.
In case the patient is going through a mental health condition, a professional will get alerts to assess the condition of the patient and take the necessary actions.
Even though technology and applications cannot replace mental health personnel, they can streamline the delivery of services and simplify access for patients.
Technology is playing a crucial role in easing access to mental healthcare across the globe. Mental health providers should try as much as they can to invest in innovative solutions for their benefit as well as those of their patients.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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