October 25, 2021

How Software Engineering (with AI) is Changing Mental Healthcare

Technology has opened a new frontier in mental healthcare. The past decade has been really revolutionary, especially in areas of support and data collection. 

This is typically one of the most shrouded areas in healthcare, and because of this, it’s out of range for many people – who are just not willing to walk into a therapist’s office or complain about their mental health troubles openly.

But then, that has been undergoing some major shift lately, with several technology solutions now available to help mental health patients get the treatment and attention they need.

Mobile devices like cell phones, smartphones, and tablets are giving patients new ways to access help, and for care providers innovative, they present new ways to monitor progress and further understand patients’ mental wellbeing.

Think of the ability to contact crisis centers via text. Or, mobile applications that bring therapy fully online, and devices with built-in sensors to collect information on a user’s typical behavior patterns. 

We can keep counting, but these are five of the popular ways software engineering is changing mental healthcare.

Integration with Existing Healthcare System

Imagine a scenario where artificial intelligence can alert doctors or nurses that a patient is at risk of developing a serious mental health issue, based on a combination of data from their medical records. 

In research by professors from the Department of Psychology at the Florida State University, it’s possible to predict which of the patients who were brought into the hospital for self-injuries are likely to attempt suicide in the future, using artificial intelligence. Using this same method, it finds that 10% of patients who use opioids for 90 days after cardiac surgery will end up dependent on those medications. 

That means doctors can quickly refer patients to therapists or other appropriate mental healthcare providers before the situation becomes almost impossible to salvage.

Detection without Bias

Mostly because mental health could be subjective, it’s not uncommon to find wrong, preemptive or late diagnoses in mental health. 

Technologies like mood-tracking app, Moodpath, assist people with depression and bipolar disorders, among others, to scale through difficult times much faster. It asks questions and provides psychological exercises in order to evaluate a person’s well-being, and screen them for symptoms of depression. 

Clarigent Health also helps clinicians detect major depression, anxiety disorders, cognitive and memory problems early-on in adults.

Other tools like these could even analyze speech patterns and facial expressions, to detect signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. These only picks from very objective and hard historical data, giving no place to bias, and ensuring patients get the right treatment accordingly.

Quickly Picking Red Flags

When someone has mental health breakdown, it doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Seemingly simple activities like typing frequency, or time spent on social media, or sudden change in your usual schedule, would raise an alarm on a tool like Feel.

Feel is a cognitive behavioral therapy and monitoring tool built by California-based Sentio Solutions. Plus helping them manage their own emotions, Feel also tracks all changes in emotional habits or patterns daily – using evidence-based behavioral techniques and Sentio-owned emotion recognition technology. That enables personalized interventions for individuals with anxiety or depression. 

Timely interventions are crucial in many areas of mental health, whether that’s medication dependence, or depression, or deeper psychological disturbance. And that’s where artificial intelligence tools come in. They provide an ever-open loop between healthcare providers and patients, ensuring issues get resolved before it turns into a dangerous spiral.

Available 24/7, Anywhere You Are

Apparently, from the earlier points, mental healthcare has been going virtual, and the fusion of software engineering is making treatments accessible to anyone anywhere, anytime. They typically come as chatbots and mobile/web applications. 

That also speaks to the needs of some people, who are just more comfortable sharing their struggles with someone they’re not physically present with. 

Help, On-Demand 

Think back to a few years ago, to what you heard about engaging a therapist, or your own experience meeting one. Finding help with mental health wasn’t an instantaneous thing. There’s scheduling, the appointment, and the list could keep ging. 

Now, almost everything you may need to address a mental health challenge could be gotten on-demand. Using an app like 7Cups, you can get on-demand, real-time support service with licensed mental health counselors and coaches. Consultations are available anytime (as in, any moment), and it’s on an anonymous basis. So, you can talk to anyone, right now.

And when it’s not talking to someone that you need, there are meditation apps like Meditopia, Headspace or Calm, each one with instructions for relaxation, deep breathing, and other techniques, to help manage stress, anxiety, and other recipes of mental breakdown.

Companies like Pear Therapeutics even go beyond the basics to create digital therapies that treat severe conditions, such as addiction, schizophrenia, pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. eFormulationTM, their application for this, has shown performance against several mental health challenges.

Fuelled by Innovation in Software Engineering

The radical change in mental healthcare is riding on innovative software solutions, with capabilities to democratize how we treat mental health issues.

Like we did with Wellnicity, by transforming their patient engagement processes, we’ve helped hundreds of customers achieve transformative technology with end-to-end solutions on the web and mobile – from healthcare to finance, retail, manufacturing, and more industries. 

Find out more about our footprints from our Case Studies, and if you’d like to discuss your software ideas, you can drop us a line here.