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New Technology Being Designed to Better Diagnose Mental Health Problems by Observing Emotions

Posted on June 28, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Sometimes, when a patient suffering from a mental illness talks with their doctor, they may say that everything is going well, even if it’s not. How does a doctor know if this information is correct or not? Without talking with a family member or close friend, it might be hard. According to, “the premise behind a new wave of startups and entrepreneurs looking to make an impact in healthcare” is mobile technology that will, essentially, be able to analyze emotions through a variety of factors, such as vocal, visual, and psychological cues. The hope is for this analysis of emotions will be administered a long side other vital signs.

The article at said that upwards of 85 percent of people who are “diagnosed with a chronic condition aren’t correctly diagnosed with depression.” And of those that are experiencing depression, less than 1/4 are getting the correct treatment for their condition. This technology that is being developed will hopefully help with this problem.

There have been several companies developing different things. One company, Cogito, is focusing on “vocal clues in phone conversations or visual signals in face-to-face meetings.” Another company, Affdex, are using webcams to read facial expressions. Other systems that will be available will involve mobile sensors that will sense physiological responses to different situations.

While these innovations will hopefully help better diagnose people and monitor their condition, it is important to remember that the technology is not a lie detector or mind reader, said Joshua Feast, CEO of Cogito:

What this technology can do is replicate the observations of an observer. You’re focusing on how people speak and interact, not what people say.

Love this idea. I could see how it could be extremely useful. I mean, if it’s mobile and can monitor someone for a long period of time, that would probably a lot more accurate in determining a person’s mental status than just visiting with them for a few minutes, as some doctors might. I couldn’t believe that so many people are mis-diagnosed and given the wrong treatments for mental illnesses. Having known many people with mental illnesses, I have observed  how people act when they have the correct treatment versus one that might not be quite right. It’s drastic. The companies that are developing these sensors and monitors could help increase the quality of life for patient’s dramatically if the technology actually works. With so many developments coming forth with medical technology, I agree with what Dr. Joseph Kvedar, the founder and director of the Center for Connected Health, said.

It’s the dawn of time for that particular technology. There’s so much sensitivity to the role that mental health plays in our healthcare.

The possibilities are endless. Feast said that he could see it being used to diagnose PTSD and mental disorders, to spotting stress in employers and preventing work-burnout before it begins. I’m very excited to see where this goes in the near future and makes me grateful that we live in a time where so many developments for the bettering of life are being made.

Trusting Relationships with Technology and Its Importance in Healthcare

Posted on December 17, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Bobby Gladd recently pointed out this interesting YouTube video of Dr. Joseph Kvedar speaking at the 2010 Connected Health Symposium. In the video Dr. Kvedar makes some interesting observations about humans and their relationships with devices and how that applies in healthcare. He calls it emotional automation. Check out the video if you have a few minutes.

I find this concept really intriguing. At a very practical level (since my heart is very practical), I couldn’t help but draw the parallel from what Joseph Kvedar said and the idea of the online doctor’s visit. There’s so many reasons that this should be successful and so many situations where an in person visit doesn’t matter.

I’ll share a quick personal experience. Being around doctors and working with doctors as much as I do, I’ve had occasion where I was feeling sick and didn’t have the time to go and see my regular doctor. In one instance, I was leaving for Hawaii the next morning and it was 4 PM the day before. Basically, no time to get to my doctor.

As it so happened, I was in the office of a doctor that I worked with. I mentioned the issue and told him my symptoms. He then asked if I wanted him to write me a script. I was a bit taken a back by the request. I certainly wanted his help, but shouldn’t we have gone in and done the routine. You know the routine. The one where the doctor listens to your breathing and heart (or whatever they’re really listening to). Feels around your neck. Looks in your mouth and ears.

Instead, this doctor went straight to the script. Turns out I’ve since learned that in many cases that doctor routine just isn’t really needed. In fact, many times it’s just done for the sake of the patient and not part of the diagnosis at all. Oh the dirty little secrets of healthcare. If you’re a doctor you already know all about this I’m sure. And certainly I’m not advocating removing the patient visit all together. Just in many cases it’s just not needed.

Of course, my point isn’t necessarily advocating a certain treatment method of not. I’m not a doctor and I don’t claim to be. I’m just sharing what I’ve heard other doctors say. What I am suggesting is that for this change to happen, there’s going to have to be a change of mentality by the patient as much as the doctor.

Dr. Kvedar describes well in the video above that we’re capable of relationships with technology. We can change our behavior and adapt to these types of changes. It will just need the right amount of education and technology to make it happen. I know some EMR vendors have patient portals, but I haven’t seen many that have dove in head first to the online visit model. Probably because the reimbursement model for online visits is still lagging behind.

Lots of really interesting things to chew on in this discussion. I’ve really just begun the conversation. I have a feeling the comments on this post are going to be intense.