Introduction

Because of the immense and awesome processing power of the human brain, we now live in an era of monumental scientific breakthroughs.  There are still places to improve though.  Mental health is one of them.

Decades-old philosophies are being rewritten because of the speed at which we are progressing in fields like immunotherapy, gene therapy, and biotechnology. For patients suffering from rare diseases, there’s a renewed optimism in treatment.

But, as remarkable as the human brain is in discovering these new procedures and treatments, it struggles to comprehend itself at times, and as a symptom, mental health remains untouched in a lot of ways.  With assistance from technology, there’s hope.


Mental health care is broken

In 2018, we still do not have a true standard way to engage and motivate those struggling with mental illnesses. Anxiety disorders, including depression, swallow up 40 million adults over the age of 18 in the United States each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

What we’ve learned is that the human brain has a breaking point.  But if trained properly, can be extremely resilient, strong and adaptable.  The advent of apps like Calm and Headspace and popularizing meditation and mindfulness – making it accessible and simple.  Wearables are giving more and more insight to how our bodies are physiologically responding to situations and over time.

It’s one of the reasons NeuroFlow is embarking on a mission to be a company of positive developments in the field of neuroscience and behavioral health. Another motivation – for me – is a little more personal.


This is personal…

I was entrusted with the safety of a platoon of soldiers, and after deploying to combat in Iraq I realized the investment in training the brain and resiliency was minimal and poorly understood.  Many of the courageous men and women who serve in the military face challenges with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.  On average, 20 a day succumb to those personal battles.  Mental health, of course, is not a Veterans issue though – it’s a human issue.


Improving engagement is key

Someone in physical therapy must complete exercises and stretches in between seeing their physical therapist.  Without this engagement in between sessions, they would not recover as quickly or efficiently.  Mental health has the same requirement with homework, exercises and engagement.  Except there’s an added layer of complexity for someone struggling with anxiety, depression or a similar disorder.   Someone getting help with depression is likely to have low motivation for completing anything.  Anxious patients may exhibit avoidance symptoms or feel hopeless.  Life also just gets in the way and we’re all busy.  So, the question is: how can we increase engagement, improve compliance and empower patients and providers throughout treatment?

There are many published papers that empirically demonstrate ways to increase patient engagement and motivation.

For example, Drs. Jerome Motto and Alan Bostrom published a paper in Psychiatric Services titled “A Randomized Controlled Trial for Postcrisis Suicide Prevention” and said that, “A systematic program of contact with persons who are at risk of suicide and who refuse to remain in the health care system appears to exert a significant preventive influence for at least two years.”

Another example cites that financial incentives improved adherence with treatment protocols, sometimes as much as increasing adherence by 3 times.


Technology can enhance treatment and empower providers and patients

Our primary belief is that we can use technology to nudge patients and improve engagement, and empower providers with remote monitoring to enhance treatment effectiveness.

Dr. Laurie Deckard, chief clinical officer at 5PALMS in Florida, uses NeuroFlow’s technology to “visibly see the progress of treatment”.   Dr. Karen B. Froming, a clinical neuropsychologist at Palo Alto University, uses the platform daily to meditate and track her own relaxation metrics.

Together, it’s time to reverse the statistics on mental health.  We’re at a precipice with technology, poised to give patients hope and providers tools to remote monitor.

Technology’s impact on patients is beginning to crystallize.  The human brain is adaptable; the human spirit is resilient – when we couple mental health treatment with technology we are poised to make huge strides.

Journaling helps patients retrace their steps, identifies common triggers for stress, and creates a log of patterns. Data dashboards, incorporating metrics like EEG, heart rate, and brain activity, offer real-time clues to clinical therapists during sessions. These strides are beginning to improve the retention rate of patients, which has historically been a sore subject.


The science and technology is further along than ever before, but has by no means finished it’s evolution.

Its at a point where its creating meaningful dialogue that leads to collaboration and subsequently begins to move the needle in the healthcare industry.

Mental health is not only affecting millions of Americans each year, but it’s sucking the life out of the country’s healthcare system, not only from a human toll but from a financial toll.  Mental health issues are commonly found among patients that also struggle with chronic illnesses.  This effects recovery, quality of life and is overall more costly.

It’s clear there is no easy solution. But, if we can get mental health, wellness and resiliency right, we believe that we, as a people, stand to reach our next level of success, happiness and well-being.  If we can save a little computing power for mental health, and technology can amplify our efforts, a huge improvement could be here sooner rather than later.

 

Photo by Louis Blythe on Unsplash

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