Fitness & Health / Tech

How IoT devices are changing mental health research

Software solutions have been making large strides in healthcare, and mental health treatment is no exception

Do you know that about 1 in 4 people suffer from some mental health-related issue? These problems can range from depression to panic attacks to anxiety issues, and they’re far more common than you would expect. They can be particularly destructive to daily life and have a crippling effect on people’s ability to function, socialize, or get their jobs done. Research has gone into how these problems manifest and how treatment can be delivered. There have been many developments in medicine and neuroscience that can bring much-needed help to those afflicted.

Software solutions have been making large strides in healthcare, and mental health treatment is no exception. In fact, many researchers have embraced certain software solutions to monitor and treat issues that may come up. These can include pathways that encourage treatment, make patients more comfortable, and make healthcare professionals’ jobs easier.

How is IOT helping in mental health?

Many technologies that are fueling IOT are also fueling neuroscience. Not just that, IoT is directly also helping neuroscience. One of IoT’s biggest promises would be personalized medicine, with extensive records of patients and AI alongside physicians in treating future problems. We think IOT would one day fix the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. This is not an article about IoT’s future, so we would not elaborate on that here, but we would pen bout it soon too. If you are interested in one specific aspect of mental health, rehabs, and how we think the future would be different, you can listen to my (Dr. Khurana’s) talk here.

Coming to what IoT is doing right now, let us explain how it works. IoT connects physical devices, buildings, and sensors to get data and control them remotely, creating more opportunities for direct integration of the physical world with computer-based systems for better efficiency, accuracy, and economic benefit.

Where these Devices are Being Utilized

One innovation in terms of mental health treatment comes in IoT, or Internet of Things devices. These are devices that utilize sensors, communication technology, and the internet to communicate with each other. This relates to mental health because these devices can be used to gather data and gain insight into the neurological functions of a person’s brain.

Some examples of IoT for mental health utilization could include wristbands that monitor symptoms of a panic attack, an electroencephalogram, or EEG, that measures electrical activity in the brain, or even an electrode implant in the very brain itself that generates electrical impulses in the brain. Here, the technology used in these devices could have a major impact on how patients are being cared for, both under the supervision and throughout their own daily lives.

The biggest advantage provided through these means comes from patients and practitioners having data-driven means to monitor any changes in a person’s brain activity, detect when mental issues are about to happen, how they come about, and ways to mitigate them. Some of the advancements already observed have shifted how we think about mental health and neuroscience as a whole.

mental health

Closing the Gaps Caused by Distance or Stigma

Although it’s getting less prominent than in the past, there is still a stigma associated with mental health matters. It makes some people fear judgment if they admit to friends they need help or if they take the step of scheduling an appointment with a professional.

AI chatbots address that problem by allowing people to talk about their issues any time of the day or night. Some chatbots are trained with mock transcripts from counselors, making the bots capable of handling tough topics like suicide.

Others are free or have modest monthly subscription fees, positioning the chatbots as appealing to low-income patients.

If people live in small towns, mental health assistance may be tough to find. Sometimes, individuals might feel so down that the act of leaving the house feels impossible. Chatbots fill the void that distance or fear can create.

However, users mustn’t become so reliant on chatbots that they isolate themselves more than ever when they desperately need human connection.

The Gathered Data

Mental health is of paramount importance, and that’s the reason that these solutions are being embraced. These devices are using artificial intelligence and big data to revolutionize mental health. As practitioners collect reports, results, and data over time, the pool of available information is expanded to detect warning signs, irregularities, problems, and more. Once these issues are identified, you can use previous cases and investigate them to see if they are correlated with current issues.

Treatment for these problems may not work for every issue because each person’s mental health is different. Fortunately, however, there are many different ways that the data gathered from these devices can be utilized. The knowledge gained about the different types of issues facing individuals with mental health problems out there will help practitioners make better treatment options. As more open discussion and research is given to mental health issues, these devices will likely aid in essential treatment for many people.

Data Security Concerns

However, for the IoT to gain a significant foothold in mental health care, the devices must be secure and medical grade. Data from such devices will be susceptible, and some patients may not be comfortable being monitored.

A secure end-to-end network is essential, and the entire security lifecycle must be considered. Unfortunately, current IoT security is not always optimal – something noted by both the UK and U.S. Governments.

To allay fears over data leaks, IoT manufacturers targeting healthcare and mental health must communicate their stringent security measures. Using federated data to spot trends in a population is a potential solution that circumnavigates patient personal data complexities. However, it limits the level of insights needed to provide optimum mental health care.

Positive Steps

Still, the early experiments using the IoT for mental health is a step in the right direction, Opening up the conversation around the technology’s applications for our mental health and adding to the vital discussions happening in society. Every mind matters – and the IoT will help us care for each one.

What do you think of how IoT devices are helping mental health research? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook. You can also comment on our MeWe page by joining the MeWe social network.

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