How Smartphone Apps Can Treat Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia

A slew of mental health apps are coming out of academic institutions, research clinics and a number of start-ups. They all seek to facilitate the management of serious mental illnesses—such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.wired.com

Priori is one of many efforts to address mental health through smartphone apps. Tools gestating within startups, academic institutions, and research clinics aim to help people manage everything from severe depression to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Through the discreet and continuous recording of social and physical behavior, these apps can detect changes in mental well-being, deliver micro-interventions when and where needed, and give patients a new awareness of their own illnesses. In the long run, they may even diminish the stigma attached to mental health disorders.  “The question isn’t whether or not this technology is going to be used in healthcare and monitoring individuals with psychiatric illnesses,” says University of Michigan psychiatrist Melvin McInnis, who developed Priori alongside computer scientists at the university’s College of Engineering. “The question is really: How?”   Most of these apps—which include CrossCheck, from Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, and Companion, from a Boston-based startup called Cogito—aren’t yet publicly available. But some projects have completed trials with small groups of patients, larger trials are underway, and preliminary results are encouraging. These apps are based on objective, contextual data, and they require little work on the part of patients.  But, certainly, there are many hurdles to overcome—most notably the potential for these tools to mislead patients and compromise their privacy. Finding ways of regulating such apps is as important as refining their technology.

“I think this will have a liberating effect, and will extend the boundaries of healthcare in a really enormous way,” says Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, psychiatrist in chief at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. “But there are also ethical and legal principles that will need to be established.”

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