Why Smartphones Are Changing the Way Mental Illnesses Are Treated in the U.S.
Advancements in new technology have allowed health experts and researchers to make monumental changes in the way that mental illnesses are being treated, and even in the way that these illnesses are discussed and perceived by the public. But is it possible that the greatest changes are coming not from new prescription drugs and therapeutic approaches, but from the most basic pieces of technology that we use everyday?
One group of researchers in Missouri has already begun using the most common mobile device that consumers can access fairly easily: the smartphone.
A new app has just been developed by a researchers at the University of Missouri, who worked with teams from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and from the Tiger Institute for Health Innovation on the smartphone app now known as “MoodTrek.”
MoodTrek serves as a sort of digital diary, according to mHealth News and a press release published by MU Health Care. Ideally, the app will help medical professionals understand what their patients are dealing with on a daily basis, even when those patients aren’t able to have regular appointments.
It’s estimated that around 16 million American adults are affected by depression in some way, but as MU Health Care noted, the majority of patients who actually seek treatment are only able to see a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, every two to three months.
For teens, getting into an office for treatment is often much harder, in large part because of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, despite the fact that an estimated 2.2 million teens (ages 12 to 17) in the U.S. have experienced depression, according to CNN.
When patients use MoodTrek, which can be downloaded for free on Google Play and will be hitting the App Store’s digital shelves soon as well, they’re able to note daily things like physical symptoms, moods, and physical activity. This information is then transferred directly to the psychiatrist treating each patient, thereby eliminating the inaccuracy that results when patients try to remember, weeks later, whether they were feeling extra depressed or anxious on a particular day.
This method of tracking one’s health is just one example of how electronic medical records are becoming more efficient and accurate by about 6% each year. And for mental health patients, who often face debilitating social stigma when they confront their diseases, a simple and unobtrusive smartphone app might be the most effective way to communicate with their care providers.