How are APPs Related to the Qualified Self Relevant to Behavioral Health?
Many of the large companies focused on the quantified self have been purchasing small device companies. Others are doing as Apple has recently done, which was to ask the developer community to develop new products to plug into their larger systems. Many of these new physiological and behavioral innovations only offer core features at this stage, but will soon allow consumers to track more physiology, analyze it more efficiently and share it with others, including their treating professionals. Collected data will be combined by companies such as Apple, Intel, Google and Samsung. They and their competitors will organize this information with other data available to a person, such as health data, social data and behavioral data to form suites of new services catering to the specific needs of the consumer. Their de-identified data will also be combined with that of family members, neighbors, co-workers, gender and age-mates, and those with similar living circumstances, geographic regions, health conditions, medications, diets, exercise patterns, etc. and sold to a variety of product and service developers.
How Apps Will Automate Basic Functions in Behavioral Health
When recent developments in fitness monitors are viewed in light of TMHI’s recent article entitled, Will Robots Replace Therapists? the thoughtful therapist is likely to reflect upon his or her future as a practitioner. The next five to ten years will deliver a host of new services that will bring into question traditional models of behavioral health. Of course, psychotherapy will never be replaced. Predicting that therapy is to be replaced by robots is far too preposterous to take seriously. Consumers will always seek traditional health and behavioral health care. Of course, there’s nothing to replace the caring provider who sits across from you, listening and responding.
However, it is conceivable that as generations are born into the Information Age and grow up expecting to interact with technology to get through their routine day, the majority will seek assistance prior to seeing an in-person health care provider. They might prefer to opt for a provider at the other end of a computer monitor. When they do either, it will most likely be for very specialized care. Gone will be the days of generalists. Consumers in older generations are also flocking to a wide variety of services and devices to measure their behavior.
Whether right or wrong, consumers already can go to the internet to guess at their own disorders, download articles and other resources related to such disorders, and immediately find others with whom to discuss their situation online, worldwide. These opportunities to learn and connect with others were not possible twenty years ago. Such opportunity is not only shaping the current clinical relationship, but is also the purview of technology development. Fueled by decreasing technology costs, the rapid proliferation of new technologies and the stated goals of Health Care Reform (HCR), consumers are beginning to expect more access to health care, better outcomes and hopefully, at lower costs. While HRC’s “triple aim” may seem out of reach from the perspective of traditional, seasoned clinicians, those very clinicians may be out of touch with the larger picture of how the triple aim will be achieved (or maybe just approximated) using much more technology than currently anticipated.
HCR’s Triple Aim: Greater Access to Health Care, Better Outcomes At Lower Cost — Through Technology?
Indeed, technology promises to deliver all three goals outlined by HCR’s “Triple Aim.” Many consumers will get more information about themselves through the qualified self technologies, combine it with data from other people, find providers rated highly by other consumers, and track their own behavioral and physiological progress with apps. Clinicians will be equipped with better tools, automated back-office functions such as the Electronic Health Record (EHR), and better ways of performing their daily functions.
In the behavioral arena, much focus of HCR is going into self-help, for example. Common functions such as giving breathing exercises, collecting and reviewing thought records or mood charts have already been replaced by simple web-based services or by apps. Even at a very basic level, creativity with inteventions is no longer the sole domain of the professional. A quick example was recently given by Dana Greenfield at the 2014 Quantified Self Europe Conference, which demonstrated how “self-tracking can go far beyond seemingly simple things like step tracking and reach into our lives to help us understand deeper parts of ourselves.” She explained how she grieved the loss of her mother by setting up her own check-in and tracking system using Google forms. Responsible professionals may note the lack of privacy or security in many of these systems, but that’s another discussion that we’ve had in numerous previous articles in this blog. (Just search for “privacy” or “security” in the upper right search field on this page for names of related blog posts.)
Video teleconferencing of contact with clinicians is now officially sanctioned by the leading national mental health associations through their ethical standards and guidelines. As a result, practitioners are joining telehealth training programs to get informed and start their own practices. This year, telehealth is a much sought topic in many national and state conventions. (I’ve had to limit my speaking schedule because demand is through the roof.) Here at TMHI, we already have enrolled 2300+ professionals from 39 countries in our 100% online training programs, including certification for such practitioners seeking expertise in telepsychiatry, telepsychology, online counseling (or online counselling) and online therapy.
Many more behavioral technologies are coming. Consider this: many smaller companies in the behavioral realm are developing services and positioning themselves as potential candidates for acquisition by the larger technology companies, some of which are named above. Such a smaller company has developed Healthify, an app which:
… provides patients with questionnaires that include questions in the environmental, social, and even financial categories that are frequently not discussed during a standard exam in a doctor’s office. This data can be collected within that patient’s EHR in order to provide his or her physicians with a more detailed understanding of the various factors in a patient’s life that could contribute to the ability to adhere to a medication schedule and to gain access to required care.
The developers of Healthify have dubbed it the “social worker app.” Again, whether right or wrong, such “innovation” is encroaching on behavioral health care. If Healthify caught your attention, just know that there are more such companies. Many more. When we stop to think about what’s happening all around us, we can all see those new businesses coming in our direction.
Go back to APPLE, GOOGLE INTEL & SAMSUNG in Behavioral Health? Part I or forward to Part III.