Imagine holding your psychiatrist or psychologist in the palm of your hand. But, wait. You really don’t have to imagine. Technology makes this a reality today, according to Ara Chackerian.
Your mental health specialist would actually reside at the other end of your hand-held device—i.e., your smartphone. Ara Chackerian, an entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist committed to revolutionizing the U.S. healthcare system, sees an opportunity in smartphones that the industry cannot afford to ignore.
Much of his contention relates directly to the ubiquity of cell phones. Ownership of these devices has increased from 2 percent in 2005 to more than 65 percent today, according to the Pew Research Center.
The other corroborating half pertains to the advancement of data storage in today’s computers and their related support systems. For instance, the capability of crowding transistors onto a chip doubles every two years—posing a great potential for recording and assimilating massive, constant data of a person’s physical destinations, expressions, gestures, and verbalized thoughts—all part of the data a mental-health doctor uses to run through analytics in order to ascertain a patient’s mental condition.
Merely using phone communication logs and speech samples can enlighten doctors on a patient’s condition or volatility, according to a report in the journal Nature.
Indeed, apps for such monitoring loom in the very near future, according to an article penned by a British firm, DLA Piper, LLC, in Lexicology. Such smartphone apps can track mental health indicators as well as physical health signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. If red flags appear in the view of the professional, a video chat with the patient can be easily arranged via the hand-held device. If the doctor detects a need for the patient to visit a clinic right away, it can be expedited thanks to the remote diagnosis provided by a smartphone.
Such instant analysis and response save time for the patient on the way to an accurate diagnosis and treatment regime. The latter being ascertained by comparing analytics from a vast mental health data storage bank.
This instant access leads to a higher probability of positive outcomes, according to the Lexicology article.
It May Seem Like Sci-Fi
However, the already widely distributed instrument—your cellphone—takes patient analysis to a level you might now only see in the movies.
Thanks to GPS systems and smartphones, doctors can analyze how a patient spends his or her time week in and week out. For instance, they can see how a person fighting depression divides his or her time between home, work, and other destinations. Time spent at each location and the number of locations can be logged. A doctor can gain insight into the patient’s volume of social activity and even the social networks visited by the patient.
Essentially, we are talking about a digital diagnosis. Providers can save immense amounts of time otherwise spent jamming on a computer keyboard between patient sessions. Less time recording and assimilating data means more time focusing on patient patterns and behaviors. In turn, this leads to a higher capability for doctors to prevent a patient crisis or treat it in time to mitigate such crises.
For the patient, behavioral and emotional data can be relayed directly to their doctors on the minute. Digital communication between the two can then be immediately transmitted to help the patient deal with his or her current emotional swing or dilemma.
Tech as a Servant to Doctor-Patient Relationship
In a Forbes article, Nitin Goyal, an orthopedic surgeon, notes that time saved on documentation and real-time counseling via smartphones only stands to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.
Goyal said he already notices that insurance companies recognize the value in this digital wave as it relates to mental health. He states the value lies in an improved success rate, which subsequently reduces patient readmission.
The ready technology of smartphones, therefore, proves a win-win-win for provider, patient, and insurer. The latter is already investing heavily in this particular technological future, according to Goyal, who cites Humana and Kaiser Permanente as examples.
Meanwhile, Goyal cautions that technology, in this case, is not intended to replace face-to-face counseling and treatment. It is aimed at streamlining processes to improve patient engagement and success.
Moreover, privacy concerns stand to temper the extent to which digital analysis and diagnosis will be allowed. The industry must incumbently find the perfect balance between patient care and patient privacy.
Ara Chackerian, particularly, invests in early-stage healthcare companies that are committed to restructuring the U.S. healthcare system—especially in these pivotal times regarding national healthcare laws and provisions. Chackerian’s capacities as a founding member and executive officer for BMC Diagnostics, PipelineRx, Telepharmacy, and TMS Health Solutions contribute expert insight into the potential for digital communications to transform mental health care as we now know it.
Rock Health, a venture founded to fund and support enterprises providing bridges between healthcare and technology, notes that such entrepreneurs have already injected $3.5 billion into digital healthcare via investments in 188 digital health companies. Moreover, this infusion covers only the first half of 2017.
All of this leaves advocates and investors to wonder when the first initial public offering (IPO) from a digital health company will burst onto the scene. Clearly, this is an industry whose horizon is immense.
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