Does mobile technology help in improving mental health? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As part of a recent study on mobile technology, when a user told Cortana that he/she wanted to commit suicide, the program redirected the user to a web search page while Siri replied with information from a National suicide hotline. S-Voice offered some human touch and responded “I want you to be OK, please talk to me,” but didn’t offer any other outside help.

To questions with respect to depression, these programs only responded with “I’m sorry to hear that” and “It breaks my heart to hear that.”

 

In this study conducted by Northwestern University, Stanford University and the University of California-San Francisco, researchers surveyed the responses of Google Now, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s S Voice to assess questions related to mental health issues or abuse. The results were incomplete and inconsistent responses from these conversational agents. Though most of the people rely on Smartphones to access their health data or information about medical conditions, addressing mental health issues through mobile technology hasn’t made much headway.

 

This study in itself is enough to suggest that tech companies as well as the healthcare sector need to ramp-up their efforts to research about mobile tools for addressing mental health issues. Researchers from the University of Manchester and Lancaster University said that “Previous research has indicated that interventions delivered in this format are acceptable for people with Serious Mental Illness (SMI). However, a comprehensive systematic review is needed to investigate the acceptability of online and mobile phone-delivered interventions for SMI in depth”.

Mobile apps are increasingly being used to track social interaction, moods, human behavior and speech & voice levels to help people suffering from mental issues. These apps can help to reduce instance of negative behavior and can be used as an alternative treatment method for people affected by depression and anxiety. Naturally, experts believe that these apps should be backed by clinical evidence to ensure effectiveness before release to consumers.

 

During the trial of a cognitive behavioral therapy app, Catch It, conducted by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, the University of Liverpool’s Computer Services and the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Science, researchers found a significant reduction in negative behavior amongst 285 participants in six weeks.

One of the report’s authors, Professor Peter Kinderman, said “This type of therapy cannot remove problems, but it can help people deal with them in a more positive way. It is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle,”

 

What concerns experts is the limited attention span of patients when using mobile technology to treat mental health issues. The key to improving these patients condition is to keep them engaged throughout the process and, a mobile tool might lack in that area due to the absence of human interaction. To be completely effective, patients would need to use these tools regularly on their own. Unfortunately, technology makes us impatient and shortens our attention spans. Moreover, Users of mobile health apps discontinue its usage after sometime of download confirming the low engagement level of most of the health apps.

 

To successfully treat mental health issues, the Healthcare sector would need to come out with engaging mobile solutions that make patients come back again and again for improved way of thinking to alter their behavioral patterns. While a human touch would still be required, because essentially mental health issues occur as a result of human relationships only, Smartphone apps can serve as a mode to gather passive data for mental health professionals who are unable to track their patients’ behavior.

One way or other, mobile technology is expected to play a significant role in the mental health segment.