Technology is all about mental health, and that’s a good thing, above all

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Increasingly, our mental health care is delivered using technology solutions such as smartphone apps, chatbots, and AI-powered wearable devices, especially as the start of the pandemic.

Why is this important: The technology has its flaws, but experts say it has been key to overcoming some of the barriers to accessing mental health care: too few providers and too little insurance coverage.

The pandemic turned out to be the ideal testing ground for many technological solutions.

  • “We literally went overnight from mostly in-person visits to 100% telehealth, unless, for example, you needed heart surgery. It was a bit of a crazy paradigm,” said Chris Molaro. , CEO and co-founder of NeuroFlow, a company that integrates behavioral health tools into the workflow of primary care specialists and physicians.

During the first pandemic shutdowns, mental health applications already on the market have received a huge boost from mainstream users. At the same time, providers who traditionally met only in person quickly made the switch to telehealth with their patient lists.

  • As the demand for mental health care providers increased, technology has offered tools that make it easier to scale and stretch resources where supply is lower, such as in rural areas.

What they say : “We have learned that technology can fill several important gaps in mental health care delivery,” said Neha Chaudhary, co-founder of Stanford University’s Mental Health Innovation Lab.

  • It can offer solutions for patients that don’t require going to an office or sitting on a six-month waiting list, Chaudhary said.
  • It can also circumvent some of the stigma that plagues mental health care. “[I]It can take a long time to get to, say, a doctor’s office. It doesn’t take much to log into an app on your phone, ”Chaudhary said.
  • Another benefit: the devices can help track people’s moods by prompting them to take surveys or track their activity levels, signaling providers when a patient may be in an acute attack, said Johannes Thrul, assistant professor of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Yes, but: There is still a lot of garbage when it comes to mental health technology.

  • “There is a very wide range of things that are not based on evidence at all – they are very poorly done,” Thrul said. “And then there are other things that have very good evidence behind them.”
  • Regulators like the FDA are starting to gain the upper hand, but are lagging behind.
  • “We see this through technology where regulators are catching up with the development that has already happened,” Thrul said. “And it’s the same with mental health care.”

The bottom line: The delivery of mental health care through technology is important. But that’s not all.

  • “Maybe I shouldn’t be saying this as the CEO of technology, but I think in healthcare technology it will be technology plus human interventions where appropriate,” Molaro said.

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