Everything is Mobile — Including Behavioral Health
Technology is rapidly growing and changing the health care landscape. We were pleased when Kathy Reynolds, the National Council’s Vice President of Health Integration, was asked to speak at a Capitol Hill briefing on data and mobile technology and their impact on our health care. Her message was clear: the behavioral health industry cannot be left behind.
Do a quick search in your smartphone’s app store. With a click of button, you can download an app to track your exercise and count calories, download another to remind you to take your medications, and another to analyze your sleep cycle — all for free. Today, there are more than 100,000 mobile health apps in iTunes, with more than three million downloads. It is estimated that 50 million people will use health-related smartphone apps by 2015. Data from Nielsen shows that U.S. Android and iPhone users ages 18 and over spend 65% more time each month using apps than they did just two years ago.
As the use of technology increases, notably in the monitoring and support of chronic health conditions, the behavioral health community should capitalize on the use of smartphones and apps to improve and strengthen the services we deliver to people with mental illnesses and addictions. National Council members serve adults who die decades earlier than the average American because of preventable, chronic diseases. Online technology is now available across the entire care continuum. There are apps that help with diagnosis, patient education, clinical treatment, early detection of relapse and relapse prevention, and remote monitoring of patient health. Research shows if we can impact these key health indicators, it increases a person’s ability to recover, improves outcomes, and reduces health care costs. Online technology can help reduce this disparity by providing around-the-clock support.
Take, for instance, myStrength’s online app. It supplements traditional mental health and addictions care. A person struggling with depression or anxiety can log in and watch videos that identify actions they can take to improve their mood. It allows the user to monitor their own self-management plan. Apps like this can have a tremendous impact.
That is why the National Council launched a new Technology and Smartphone Apps Learning Community — a group of 26 mental health and addiction organizations that are reviewing and testing apps that help monitor exercise, weight loss, nutrition, and blood pressure. Our goal is to examine the impact of mobile monitoring on these key health indicators and to provide recommendations to the broader field.
As technology changes, so too will health care. To strengthen and modernize service delivery, we all owe it to the people we serve and to our organizations to keep adapting as well.