Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed a smart-device based electronic platform to help patients manage their mental health between appointments. The technology continuously monitors the patient’s state of hyperarousal, which is one of the signs of psychological distress.
The platform can read facial cues, analyse voice patterns and integrate readings from built-in vital signs sensors on smartwatches to determine if a patient is feeling anxious or depressed.
The technology not only enables patients to better manage their mental health, it could also allow medical providers and counsellors to monitor how their patient is tracking.
Gap in services
Dr. Farzan Sasangohar, assistant professor in the Wm Michael Barnes ‘64 Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, explained: “The platform was inspired by our previous work on monitoring hyperarousal events among combat veterans. We identified a twofold gap in providing mental healthcare: firstly, underutilisation of mental health services, potentially due to emotional numbness and stigma; and secondly, lack of monitoring capabilities in between therapeutic sessions. The platform is our contribution to address these gaps.”
Non-intrusive sensors in wearable technologies such as smartwatches are used together with advanced machine learning and data analytics techniques to detect patterns associated with mental health anomalies. In addition, novel technologies such as facial and voice sentiment analysis are utilised.
The platform provides a suite of therapeutic tools, such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, community support, telecare, automated messages and location sharing.
Game changing technology
Results from initial testing of the technology suggest a high level of acceptance, adoption and compliance among users. There was also a high level of perceived accuracy for the detected events.
“I think this technology will be a game-changer,” said Dr Sasangohar, “since it not only raises mental health awareness and keeps users in the loop about their current state, but it also provides timely intervention to deal with acute issues, preventing them from becoming chronic.
“I firmly believe the future of mental health care belongs to self-management technologies. Technology can play a big role in feeding providers with key objective information related to mental health and by providing timely, discreet and on-demand therapeutic interventions.”