Mobile Apps, Sensors & Algorithms: Our Ambient, Ubiquituous Mental Health Coach/Treators?

Next up in our ongoing exploration of digital mental health categories is mobile apps, sensors and algorithms.Each are a distinct point solution and a significant tech industry sectors, in their own right. I am categorizing them as a combination as they are the ensemble behind a significant number of digital mental health solutions, that take the form of wearables, ingestibles, observables, etc. Often and increasingly they are referred to as “digital therapeutics”. I see them as a subset of this larger, more complex & diverse category.

These combinations are popular as they bring together:

a) mobile apps, user interface (often in phone or watch) with active data gathering & insight reporting capability,

b) sensors as a means of passive data gathering, and

c) algorithms as means of analyzing data and deriving/reporting insight.

These solutions are playing a role in preventing, tracking, screening & diagnosing as well as treating unwellness, & supporting recovery. I would say that these combination brings us as close as imaginable to having “ambient” treaters available to us at all times.

Examples include:

  • Abilify Mycite, the drug-device combination of Abilify and Proteus Digital Health’s sensor to improve drug adherence and effectiveness,
  • PSIOUS VR Therapy, which combines VR lenses with biometric sensors to improve treator administration of exposure therapy
  • Thync, which combines app, energy wave emission tech and biometric sensors to administer neurostimulation
  • Neeuro, which combines EEG sensors and video games to train memory and concentration
  • HealthRhythms, which combines phone, UI, wearables/IOT to improve wellness monitoring via combination of biometric and behavioral (movement, tech use & speech) indicators.

There are more in the marketplace and we will see even more as app experiences improve, sensors become less expensive and cumbersome, regulatory bodies improve their validation and approval regimes and algorithms and algorithms become more sophisticated.

Ability to see the invisible & longitudinal state of our mental health: For any of us, the state of our mental health is subjective, fluid and we only think about it when symptoms become crippling, and even then we too often are not aware until an external source informs us. These tools provide the promise of improving health outcomes from prevention to recovery through means which has become ubiquitous in societies all over the world in the form of smartphones, watches and mobile internet connections.

These health improvements will grow with increased initial adoption & persistent use by populations. This will bring about an ability for more understanding of present health states, like with current physical health status, as well as a trends which allow early & ongoing intervention in maintaining/recovering this aspect of our health. With adoption, data sets and insight will improve also, creating the potential for a virtuous cycle of population mental health outcomes. Herein is the promise of the ubiquitous mental health [aka, stress management / productivity] coach/treator.

To be balanced though, let’s not forget that this promise also relies heavily on our ability to: a) effect a lowering of mental health stigma, b) earn and deserve the public’s confidence regarding the secure handling of mental health data & insights, c) earn confidence regarding these tools’ efficacy & safety, and d) improve the cost, usability and stickiness of these tools.

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As alway, be (cognitively & emotionally) well!

 

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