Recent years have reminded us all about the importance of health, especially in crises such as pandemics, conflicts, and political challenges. These events have taken their toll on our mental health but have also opened vast opportunities for new ways to care, connect and improve. Most institutions, some will be mentioned below, recognized the importance of remote caring options for the general populace during the extended indoor periods and scarce social interactions. Lockdowns drove a rise in e-therapy as a way to continue treatments and provide support from health practitioners without adding the extra risk of leaving home.
The WHO (World Health Organization) recognizes the increase of mental health afflictions in the later years and added it to the “Sustainable Development Goals” launched at the “World Mental Health Report: Transforming Mental health for All” (WHO, 2022 ). As reported, the people in the 15-29-year-olds got suicide as the second lead cause of death, this being an alarming fact for all society. In economic terms, the two most common health conditions, anxiety and depression, cost worldwide around US$ 1 trillion per year. Some countries, like the United Kingdom, have recognized that the pandemic created an increased demand for mental healthcare, estimating a rise of 10 million people will require new or additional support no matter their age.
For the past decades, technology has positioned itself as a great tool to reduce costs and optimise tasks in our daily lives, from simple calculations in a computer to navigating complex systems like robotics, hence, health care is no exception to this rule. The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes models like e-therapy, usually referred to any online or phone sessions to provide remote healthcare, as effective as regular procedures where care takes place physically face to face, this is demonstrated by the results in several studies and a general favourable view from patients and providers. The studies reported no difference between the same room and remote therapies; this conclusion was achieved after following 325 cases of patients with no difference between the in-person and remote therapies in the outcomes. The pandemic forced upon all of us the adoption of communication technologies that rocketed and forced the e-therapy to scale and adapt dramatically – although this technology and infrastructure have existed since the mid-1990s in a dormant state; since then, the studies and opinions alike, show that the results of in-person or remote sessions provide a similar benefit.
The rising number of platforms for mental healthcare such as BetterCare, companion bots such as Woebot, and mental health content creators like psych2go are able to support folks globally, depicting a great interest both in the people and the markets around the subject. The increase in remote care and e-therapy use have several challenges to overcome; we are dealing with security, quality and privacy since we are working with sensitive personal data. Companies that provide care are compliant with local and international legislations, and such legislations require a number of security measures: encryption, certificates and restrictions enforced by the tech teams. In addition to overcoming legal aspects, the concept of quality deals with interfaces, UX flows and improved connections, especially for video sessions.
The challenges for tech professionals are wide and vast in this scenario. The need for global reach requires adopting cloud and decentralised infrastructure, which in turn promotes higher quantities of users requiring better frameworks to keep up with the needs and petitions of the users, and the industry standards that are being improved daily. These changes are empowering communities to get timely and proper care options, especially those far from more urbanized areas or usually isolated from more traditional options, like rural areas in Latin America.
In conclusion, the need for better healthcare is loud and clear, and technology can be a great ally to create solutions. The global reach in which we can deploy care options using digital and physical technology has been proven by the recent worldwide crisis. Populations are growing faster than ever, driving the industry to new grounds and more internationalized solutions. It is time to care more about our fellows. Implementing technology to provide more efficient services, more flexible platforms, and more awareness about mental health in social media will help us to deliver care while being compassionate, aware of the social-economic and cultural situations, empathetic and, overall, recognizing health as a basic human right.
Senior Software Engineer
- World Health Organization (2022): World mental health report: Transforming mental health for all. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240049338
- Nick O’Shea (2020): Covid-19 and the nation’s mental health: October 2020. Retrieved from https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/publications/covid-19-and-nations-mental-health-october-2020
- Hannah Calkins (2021): Online therapy is here to stay. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/01/trends-online-therapy
- Zara Abrams (2020): How well is telepsychology working? Retrieved from . https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/07/cover-telepsychology
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (2021): Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html