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The Rise Of Digital Technology In Mental Health

With the announcement of Apple’s ResearchKit in March 2015, developers and health care professionals have been working to develop applications that leverage the functionality of the smartphone to aid in research – whether that’s using sensors, facial recognition, accelerometer or GPS tracking. In addition to Apple’s ResearchKit and functionality, IBM Watson and the cognitive technology it offers have created opportunities to put the evolving phenomenon of machine learning to the test in initiatives to advance the level of cognition in the technology we use in our day-to-day lives.


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In addition to the applications already in the works, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has launched the Mood Challenge, calling on proposals for innovative ideas to research mood. The challenge focuses on Apple’s ResearchKit functionality to bring solutions to the mental health industry and to test how mood impacts wellness. Beyond this challenge, mental health has been an area of interest for many investment groups, with recent high-dollar investments in mental health including startup Lantern, raising $17M in a series B this year, Talkspace raising 9.5M in 2015, and Quartet raising $40M in a series B funding round this year. It is apparent that the technological framework exists to continue inventing more robust mental health apps for users, while financial interest remains strong

The question I have is, how does a person find the right app for her or him?

Perscription (”Ask your doctor if this App is right for you")? Ratings, like Yelp or Angie's List?

Not sure if ratings help to determine which app can actually help. 

Responding to industry prompts and opportunities to innovate in the mental health space, many startups or initiatives have emerged to bring the technology of today to one of our society’s most pressing issues.

  • Eliza: Gathering the attention of tech lovers this spring, the IBM Watson-powered Android application analyzes speech to determine a person’s mental state. Users simply tell Eliza how they’re feeling, and the technology analyzes sentiments to aggregate data and offer insights to users.
  • Saker: Using Apple’s ResearchKit functionality, this app tracks a person’s gait to test how scared or apprehensive a user is feeling.
  • Autism & Beyond: Also using Apple ResearchKit, this Duke University initiative uses facial recognition technology to help in early-stage autism screening.
  • Quartet: A Google Ventures-backed company, Quartet has developed a collaborative behavioral health platform that aggregates data and analyzes trends between physical health and behavioral health, linking patients with a health care provider, evidence-based approaches and individualized plans.

Wow there are a lot of mental health apps!

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