The invention of cutting-edge emotion recognition technology is spearheading the rapidly emerging field of Augmented Mental Health—with potential to radically revolutionize the mental health care industry. Combining increasingly affordable smart mental health monitoring technologies with the real-time provision of evidence-based therapy to treat mental disorders and improve well-being, Augmented Mental Health systems allow for previously unobtainable levels of personalized, smart, efficacious, and on-time care.
Current Mental Health Care Models: Weekly Psycotherapy and/or Pharmacotherapy—Are Not Enough!
Currently, depression is the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide, and conventional mental health care models are failing to meet demands.
There are multiple mental health-associated costs not only for the patient, but for mental health professionals, governments, self-insured employers, insurance providers, and societies and communities as a whole. If practices don’t change, the global cost of mental illness is projected to increase from nearly $2.5 trillion in 2010 to over $6 trillion by 2030.
There are genuine problems that are stagnating the mental health care industry, keeping insurance providers and employers from delivering mental health insurance coverage and access to mental health care services that is up to par with general health coverage including limited: screening and identification of mental health problems, care-coordination, disease management, treatment efficacy assessments, mental health professional shortages, and cost-effectiveness of scaling up treatment as usual.
To solve the issues inhibiting the mental health care industry growth, Augmented Mental Health combines smart emotion recognition with advanced mobile applications in establishing the pioneering mental health care models and breakthrough treatments of the future.
What is Augmented Mental Health? A New Paradigm for Diagnosing, Monitoring, and Treating Mental Health
Next-generation emotion recognition tech—like MIT’s mPath emotion sensor for consumer marketing or the first advanced emotion sensor Feel—tap into the relationship between human emotion and the nervous system providing a more accurate, objective, real-time analysis of a person’s true inner feelings than ever before. Augmented mental health can be defined as health systems and practices that employ next-gen emotion recognition technology and mental health monitoring to markedly augment the treatment of mental illness, more effectively and reliably improving mental and behavioral health than conventional psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy alone.
The key concept behind augmented mental health systems centers around the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT): providing real-time, responsive, personalized, remote, and comprehensive mental health care services by integrating i) smart tech for objective emotion recognition and mental health monitoring and ii) mHealth services for mental and behavioral health management.
Through an mHealth application, the patient receives therapeutic interventions/activities and access to mental health coaching based on their real-time emotional states and patterns at the touch of a button. Objective mental health monitoring allows therapists to track client’s symptoms and moods, assess treatment success, personalize therapy accordingly, and make the most out of face-to-face therapy. Moreover, apps with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant note-taking can help insurance clinicians, providers, governments, and employers to determine which interventions are working best and which should be changed across the practitioner's whole practice or entire organization.
Augmented Mental Health Benefits Overcome Failures and Limitations of Conventional Care
Employing emotion recognition tech in augmented mental health immediately turns three major universal flaws currently stagnating the mental health industry on their head, repackaging them as benefits for mental health patients, professionals, providers, and insurers:
1. Subjective diagnosis and assessment becomes objective
Subjectivity in assessing emotional states, both from the side of the mental health provider and patient, hinders the treatment, evaluation, and diagnosis of mental health issues (driving up the associated costs). It also caps reimbursement payouts and network growth. Where impaired emotional awareness is characteristic of most mental health disorders, long-overdue objective evaluations of treatment success are finally achievable with emotion recognition technologies.
2. Non-continuous monitoring becomes continuous
From making leaps in our capabilities to screen for, identify, and predict emerging mental illness or relapse from emotional trends and patterns, to accelerating the currently lengthy process of tailoring therapy to the individual, there are numerous benefits of continuously monitoring mental health with emotion recognition tech. Perhaps most importantly, the potential to vastly augment and maximize therapeutic interventions is great: the continuous monitoring of emotions provides the unique opportunity to consistently detect harmful habits beyond human capabilities (and in turn, more thoroughly and consistently reprogram new healthy emotional responses through the provision of timely individualized interventions).
3. Poor access to care becomes instant access
The mental health care provider shortage and abysmal access to care is a real and global problem that severely blocks network utility and growth. Stats on mental health care access are truly shocking world over, where shortages of 1000s of mental health care professionals in both high and low income countries is standard—even in meeting very basic provider ratios (e.g., 30,000 to 1). Generally, research finds that the majority of network psychiatrists and psychologists are unreachable or unable to schedule new appointments, and waiting for an appointment often takes weeks.
Brute force strategies to increase numbers as is standard of old models of care cannot meet these needs realistically or effectively.
New augmented mental health models of care that exploit mobile communication can rapidly and instantaneously close the gap at the click of a button. Exploiting objective emotion recognition technology for real-time eTherapy provides instant access to real-time coaching and therapeutic interventions, equating to an unparalleled route to early intervention in the mental health industry—where early intervention and consistency are key to the success of mental health treatment, healthy habit formation, and responding to high-risk patients in crisis.
The Future: Ultimately, emotion recognition is destined to become the central and standard tool used in innovative augmented mental health systems that monitor and thereby more effectively manage and improve emotional states and habits in people suffering from mental health issues. The future of emotional well-being and augmented mental health is already here and doesn’t have to be such a nebulous struggle—it’s personalized, it’s smart, it’s augmented. Get ready, the augmented mental health era has already begun, the time is now!
Greco, A., Valenza, G., & Scilingo, E. (2016) Advances in electrodermal activity processing with applications for mental health.
Saxena, S., Krug, E., & Chestnov, O. (2014). Preventing suicide. Geneva: World Health Organization.
World Health Organization. (2001). The world health report 2001 - Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope.
World Health Organization. ( WHO 2011a). Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2010. Geneva: WHO.
World Health Organization. (2017). "Depression: let’s talk" says WHO, as depression tops list of causes of ill health.
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