This has been a busy year for mental health technologies, but 2017 promises to bring advances never before seen in psychiatry.
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1. Firth J, Torous J, Yung AR. Ecological momentary assessment and beyond: The rising interest in e-mental health research. J Psychiatr Res. 2016;80:3-4. http://www.journalofpsychiatricresearch.com/article/S0022-3956(16)30085-1/abstract. Accessed November 11, 2016.
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3. Torous J, Kiang MV, Lorme J, Onnela JP. New Tools for New Research in Psychiatry: A Scalable and Customizable Platform to Empower Data Driven Smartphone Research. JMIR Ment Health. 2016;3(2):e16. https://mental.jmir.org/2016/2/e16. Accessed November 15, 2016.
4. Torous J, Baker JT. Why Psychiatry Needs Data Science and Data Science Needs Psychiatry: Connecting With Technology. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73:3-4. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2473515. Accessed November 11, 2016.
5. Riva G, GutiÃ©rrez-Maldonado J, Wiederhold BK. Virtual Worlds versus Real Body: Virtual Reality Meets Eating and Weight Disorders. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2016;19:63-66. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2016.29025.gri. Accessed November 11, 2016.
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8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ONC announces Blockchain challenge winners. September 1, 2016. http://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2016/08/29/onc-announces-blockchain-challenge-winners.html. Accessed November 11, 2016.
9. Federal Trade Commission. Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program. January 5, 2016. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/01/lumosity-pay-2-million-settle-ftc-deceptive-advertising-charges. Accessed November 11, 2016.
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This has been a busy year for mental health technologies, such as smartphones and sensors, as well as augmented and virtual reality. In this article, we review 10 of the most noteworthy topics surrounding digital psychiatry today and explore what 2017 and beyond may look like for the psychiatric profession and for our patients.
View the slides in PDF format.
The rate of clinical research on mental health technologies such as smartphone apps, wearable sensors, and digital devices rose steadily in 2016. Such research is expected to continue in 2017.1
The amount of mental health information gathered through smartphones and sensors continues to grow. In 2016, it was possible to capture more than 1 million data points per day from psychiatric research grade apps.3
Augmented reality and virtual reality have become more affordable and popular in 2016 (think Pokemon Go).
Refinement in collecting personal mental health information from smartphones and sensors has raised concerns about confidentiality and privacy. The US Department of Health and Human Services issued a report on the need for more protections in the mobile health space.6 The US Government Accountability Organization released alarming numbers about hacking of electronic medical data.7
Solutions such as government regulations and technology innovations will help to secure personal data.
In early 2016, the $2 million settlement between the US Government and Lumosity, the brain training app maker, signaled that unsupported claims will no longer be tolerated.9 In 2017 transparency will be the norm. The days of hiding how digital health innovations work are over.
It will be increasingly difficult for companies to compete in 2017 without demonstrating why their approach is valid and secure.
As the number of mental health apps available in the consumer marketplace continues to rise, both patients and clinicians need to distinguish useful and safe apps from harmful and dangerous ones.
Throughout 2016, it became clear that many of the mental health apps we have today are unappealing. Patients often use them once and then never open them again.
There is more to digital psychiatry than smartphone apps and wearables. Research shows that apps and other technologies often work better via a hybrid care model that combines the expertise of mental health professionals and the support needed by patients with available technologies.12
The economics of digital psychiatry received little attention in 2016, although finding sustainable ways in which these services can support themselves will be a focus of 2017.