Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 30, 2020

5 ways tech can help with depression and anxiety

Most of the healthcare technology around today is related to treating physical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Still, technology can also be used to diagnose and treat various mental health disorders such as depression. 

We've put together this article to help you understand the various technologies being used today to treat depression and other mental health issues.

1. Internet support groups can provide a wealth of guidance

If attending a local support group doesn't sound like something you'd find helpful, you struggle to find the time, or you don't like the idea of speaking in front of others, then a virtual internet support group could be a fantastic alternative. Websites such as the Rethink are great for offering group support. Many internet support groups provide the ability to remain anonymous so that people can share issues such as depression, anxiety, or OCD without fear of being identified. Some internet support groups might consist of a text-only option, much like a live chat or group messaging service, while others will allow the use of voice communication and video if preferred.

2. Depression and anxiety symptoms can be relieved using smartphone apps

There are many more physical help apps out there when compared to the number of apps for mental health and depression. Although the numbers are low, there is a range of apps available that can help with depression symptoms, as well as self-help apps that add to the positive effects of an OCD treatment and more. Using these apps users can share stories, get help coping with symptoms, and practice calming repetitive actions and relaxation. 

In addition to providing a range of benefits to those suffering from depression, these apps also offer insightful data that can be extremely helpful to physicians in diagnosing symptoms.

Valuable data, which can provide a host of benefits to therapists, can be recorded with the permission of the user.

3. Mental healthcare access could be improved with telehealth

Aside from the internet portals and mobile apps, technology enables consulting with a therapist or physician over the phone or via video link (known as telehealth), which can provide a plethora of benefits for the patient. There are various reasons for using telehealth to treat depression and other mental health disorders. Patients may feel more comfortable at home, and the service comes at a lower cost than a visit to a clinic or a doctor’s office. It can also make healthcare more accessible for those who can't or won't visit a specialist in person. Having a conversation with a specialist over a video link can help create and maintain a human connection - something that's less possible via a voice call. There is an increasing number of reliable tools such as Skype, Zoom, and more that allow video conferencing to take place between a patient and a medical expert, which makes healthcare accessible to more people than ever before.  Numerous specific apps, such as Talkspace and Teledoc, are also growing in usage.

4. Google depression screening

A new initiative has been set up between Google and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is widely available to US citizens. When a user searches ''depression'' on their mobile device, they will be presented with a ''knowledge panel'' which provides details on depression symptoms, treatments and more. You can also get screened to see if you are suffering from depression by taking the self-assessed quiz. Although the quiz is not exhaustive, it can provide a good indicator if someone is clinically depressed and may advise the user to seek medical assistance. 

5. Mental health smartphone tracking

There are many apps available that differ from those that help relieve symptoms or diagnose a condition. Instead, these apps are there to detect an impending mental health crisis by monitoring an at-risk patient's behavior. The apps look for actions such as increased typing speeds, impulsive shopping sprees, syntax changes, and more. If such behaviors are detected, the app can send an alert to a professional as a caution that a behavior pattern has occurred, allowing them to act accordingly.

Such behavioral changes could be indicators that someone is having suicidal thoughts or possibly at a risk of self-harm. By providing usage data to a mental health expert a user can allow them to intercept before any danger occurs.

Although there have been many technological innovations to treat the physical health of patients, mental health technology capabilities have been lagging behind. The good news is that there is certainly some momentum being built to advocate a change. More patients suffering from depression and other mental health disorders  have  access to mental health care than before and can benefit from a wide range of new technologies.

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