What if a smartphone could detect depression?
Soon there could be an app for that, and it could soon change the way depression is first screened.
Two companies are working to develop technology that would use data from a smartphone to help detect depression.
Medibio is one of those apps.
A version of the app was presented to the Federal Drug Administration this week. Its goal is to create a tool that can objectively detect mental illness.
Medibio uses smartphone data to collect data on measurable health factors, such as heart rate and sleep and gives users a score based on the individual’s possibility of entering a time of high stress or mental vulnerability.
University of Kansas Health System pediatric psychologist Dr. Stephen Lassen says he isn’t sure the app will give users more information than they know what to do with. He says heart rate and sleep are known to be correlated with mental health conditions but also correlate to several other things. He says this could cause the app to not yield the best results.
“One of the concerns is that individuals may not know how to use them, may not know what to do with the information that they get from the apps, which could lead to a false positive or just other misconceptions about what could be going on in a person’s life,” Lassen said.
Lassen says apps like Medibio have potential, if the research continues to grow, and could work as a type of screener, alerting someone that there might be a concern to follow up on with a doctor.
“All this technology, it’s really an untapped reservoir of great information and opportunities for us to move forward with mental health diagnosis, as well as treatment,” Lassen said.
Medibio is available for download. An updated version is expected to be released soon.
Other startups, like Mindstrong Health, are working to understand the way people type, scroll and click on their smartphone to see how that can be used to detect mental illness.
Lassen says it’s an area that isn’t well understood and more research needs to be done.
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