Digital health technologies aim to enhance the healthcare system, provide personalized care, and explore health-related data from genomics to the digital footprint.
With the use of technology, healthcare will be more accessible for patients who will be in a better position to assess themselves, and healthcare professionals will have more data at hand to provide a detailed understanding and overview of the patient’s health issues at the get-go.
With a lot of wearable medical devices in the market and mobile health apps, the digital health revolution that is underway is already making waves. However, looking at the larger picture, there is no doubt that a few aspects yet need to be addressed.
One such aspect is mental health.
Impact of Digital Health Revolution on Mental Health
Even though the benefits of digital health resources cannot be overlooked, their impact on people’s mental health and mental health services overall is significant.
While a lot of people argue that mental health services benefit from this revolution, others opine that the impact is detrimental.
To evaluate the situation, let’s discuss how the digital health revolution is impacting mental health.
People suffering from anxiety, depression, psychotic disorders, and PTSD often cannot afford a delay in their appointment. Accessing help in itself is difficult, and standard health insurance often don’t provide many options for those who need mental health care specifically.
With the digital health revolution, experts claim to offer easy accessibility to all such patients, and this may be lifesaving for patients having a severe episode of anxiety, or suicidal depression. With the use of digital services, patients can get easy access and can meet their doctor at their required time or with less lag in availability.
Personalized Health Care
Offering personalized health care is facilitated by technology, so a lot of patients are now able to get personalized care based on the data collected. When individuals download a certain app or wear a medical device such as Fitbits, smart health watches, etc., data is being collected. Based on this data, the healthcare professional plans his next steps.
For a patient with mental health problems, personalized health care is extremely important. It differs from other diseases, such as diabetes where every patient is prescribed insulin or offered a specific regimen. Each patient with mental illness is different and the same medicines or medical plan cannot be prescribed. Thus, it certainly helps in providing accurate treatment.
Patients suffering from mental health issues do not like to come out and admit that they are suffering. Digital health tools allow patients to maintain their anonymity by logging in through an app where they can meet their healthcare professionals without an exchange of names, pictures, or video calls. The patient can speak to his/her healthcare professional, explain his situation, and get a diagnosis, all of which are HIPAA compliant.
Even today, there is a stigma attached to mental health; however, remaining anonymous increases the rate of mental health reporting.
Inability to Respond to Crisis Situations
Even though there is easy accessibility, the digital mental health services do not offer immediate or emergency response to crises. Patients suffering from mental illnesses may go through a severe episode of depression or suicide ideation, for example, where quick response time can be life-saving, and this is where an emergency medical response is needed. The inability to immediately respond to such situations causes major issues for patients with mental health.
Overlooks Body Language
Body language is an extremely important factor when assessing individuals with mental illness. Healthcare professionals look at several nonverbal cues when assessing someone.
These include looking at the patient’s feet, studying their eye, head, and hand movements, etc. These cues are a part of diagnosis as they communicate a lot about the patient’s condition.
When consulting digitally, all such aspects are often overlooked as the professional is unable to view the patient thoroughly. Thus, treatment may not be accurate and there might be aspects that the patient may hide which might cause problems later.
Over-Reliance and Self-Diagnosis
In the context of digital health, patients often rely a lot on healthcare professionals and their tech devices at different, often unpredictable times.
In a reactive situation, someone may panic and either try to get in touch with their healthcare provider or look for the health device that they think might help.
While the main goal for mental health consumers is to reduce their dependency on others, be it humans or technology, there is a learning curve to consider for those who are less comfortable or familiar with smartphones and other digital technologies who nonetheless want to make effective use of them.
Additionally, because it also gives patients a chance to self-diagnose themselves, tech devices play a huge role in diagnosis and when this diagnosis is not backed by a healthcare provider, it can become dangerous for patients. According to a mental health writer on Research Prospect, self-diagnosis can lead to self-medicating behaviors, which have a risk of increasing or causing complications.
Minimal Professional Involvement
The global mobile application market size was valued at $106.27 billion in 2018. It is forecast to reach USD 311.98 Billion by 2027, according to a new report by Reports and Data.
Healthcare professionals must be involved at each step of the process, specifically for mental health services. Many apps and devices are being developed that do not consider advice from the medical professionals during the development phase. This leaves patients at the mercy of technology only. They may believe whatever the app or system tells them is true which becomes dangerous for mental health patients.
With the digital health revolution in full bloom, the healthcare industry needs to make sure that there is appropriate professional involvement so that it benefits patients.
It is predicted that the mobile health apps market will exceed 50 billion by 2025 in the United States alone. Thus, medical professionals must be involved in all phases of the development process so that credible apps are built.
Even though digital health is aiming to provide a better and easily accessible healthcare system for all, mental health is an area where huge improvement is needed. Providing digital mental health services to patients without appropriate consultation and accurate diagnosis is not only unfavorable for mentally ill patients but is also against medical laws and other regulations.
Basit Ali is an Entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. Basit works as a content marketer at Cognizant and working on the projects like Essays.uk and ResumeCroc.com. where he revises marketing content, improves email marketing, and works with marketing interns and customer service providers. His writing goes beyond traditional tech domains and includes interactive tips that are implementable in the world today. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.