San Fransisco, CA
Many psychiatrists today are treating patients and mental health issues with the help of advanced technology. The technology we have today, can help workers in the medical field approach medical treatment with more sophisticated reason. Many different types of technology, such as mental health apps, video conferencing platforms, and artificial intelligence or chatbots can contribute to being a catalyst for expansion towards practicing psychiatry. After and especially during the pandemic, many psychiatrists and therapists could not meet patients in person.
Therefore, many had to use video conferencing platforms such Zoom, or Telehealth. The pandemic expanded and created a more vast use of telemedicine, specifically for psychiatrists and therapists, allowing them to see patients online instead of only in person. Many different types of technologies have been around for a while, and have been able to be applied towards the field of psychiatry. But, most don’t use these technologies because most commonly, teletherapy is the most used type of technology in the field of psychiatry and psychology. Technologies that aren’t very common are VR’s, AI, mental health tracking apps, and a lot of digital technology. AI can be used in the future if researched and developed more, allowing patients to have their voice and moods recognized, and help them recognize when they may be under emotional distress. However, most of these technologies are just tools. Psychiatrists are responsible for their jobs, lawfully and mindfully. Technologies are still being developed for the field of psychiatry, because for such a field, technologies would have to be adjusted to it. Technologies in the field of psychiatry and used for treating mental health, would have to be able to determine and identify patients symptoms, cognitive behaviors, emotions, and thought patterns, and still be able to allow both the psychiatrist or therapist and patient, to still work together and not fully take over to the point where the technology is doing all the work. This is why technology has the opportunity to be immensely huge in the field of psychiatry.
Current Use of Technology In the Field of Psychiatry
Many technologies are being used today to enhance psychiatric work and psychoanalysis. Commonly today, many psychiatrists are using video conferencing platforms to see and work with patients. This is the most common type of technology, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become a huge help for people working in the field of psychiatry.
The most common platform that is being used for psychiatry and teletherapy is Zoom. Overall, the biggest use of technology in psychiatry is Telehealth. Many other types of technologies are still having to be researched and tested, in order to make sure it can work best, and in favor, for a patient. The pandemic gave psychiatrists a glimpse of how important technology is in the field of psychiatry, and it will only advance and enhance both psychiatrists and patients' experience. In terms of mental health, there are many types of technologies that can be used for people in need of healing. Many crisis centers, and suicide hotlines, offer chatbots, to talk to. There are a vast amount of mental health apps that can offer therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and help people in their daily lives therapeutically. However, many hotlines and mental health apps are not always as reliable as an actual person, let alone a counselor or a psychiatrist. This is why technology must be developed in a way where psychiatrists can use it, but also involve patients' own thoughts and opinions. On the other hand, there are many websites such as Psychology Today, which can provide psychological insight, as well as help for finding a local therapist or psychiatrist. Many apps today, that serve as a catalyst for healing people’s mental health, have different purposes. These purposes can range from skill training apps, such as games or educational apps to teach people ways to deal with their emotions and thoughts, supported care apps, which can help people reach out to therapists and counselors that can help them, and data collection apps, which can collect data about a user, and give them advice based on the data, or tips and motivation, overall just depending on the data. As stated earlier, many apps are not fully reliable for helping treat mental health. They are not evaluated properly, and some do not even have research reviewed by a peer. And, many of mental health apps and technology currently, don’t have the variety to treat severe disorders, such as schizophrenia, or psychosis, but can mostly only treat general anxiety and depression. So mainly, technology in mental health and psychiatry can not always be reliable, and still needs to be researched and tested furthermore.
How Technology Affects Psychiatry
Psychiatry itself is an advanced field, so therefore technology that would have to assist in helping psychiatrists work with patients would have to be very advanced and properly
developed. Right now, in today’s world, we do not have much technology that can fully and safely assist patients in the field of psychiatry. But, with the technology we do have today, it is still very helpful and can be a useful tool for many psychiatrists. Technology can affect psychiatry in many different ways. Since psychiatry is based around patients, and many mental disorders, and emotions and feelings, that is just a small part of what technology such as AI, would have to be able to pick up. But other technologies like video conferencing platforms like Zoom, can just be helpful in the way where psychiatrists are able to see patients easier, because Zoom allows them to see patients online. But, technology overall, can affect psychiatry in many negative ways, and have a negative impact. When a psychiatrist is seeing a patient, it is important that there is trust and safety for the patient. When technology is involved, that trust and safety cannot always be confirmed as easily as it would be with a real person. For example, when one texts a suicide or depression hotline, they could not know if it could be trusted because of the fact that they do not know who they are talking to, whether they are taking to an AI chatbot, or a real person. There is no trust that has been built, unlike being with a psychiatrist or therapist, or counselor in person. When using mental health apps, many of the apps with chatbots or data collectors cannot fully treat patients or users of the apps, because they are only programmed to treat general anxiety and depression, and back to the fact that there is no trust or safety, like there should be when seeing a psychiatrist. So if the technology is not dependable, and has a lot of red flags, how can it affect psychiatry in a positive way? Therefore, as stated at the start of the paragraph, technology in psychiatry would have to be advanced; advanced technology should fuel an advanced field. Many AI technologies need to be fully developed to be able to understand a patient or user’s emotions, thoughts, feelings, thought patterns, perceptions, beliefs, cognitive behaviors, and mind overall, and still allow there to be a balance between the use of the technology and the actual work between the psychiatrist and patients. Currently, the technology used in psychiatry commonly, is very helpful. But in terms of overall technology, it still has to be more developed to have a positive impact on psychiatry overall. Many technologies can have a huge positive impact on psychiatry, but at what measure will the technology be helpful? How will technology be able to be ahead of what psychiatrists are already able to do?
The Future of Technology in Psychiatry
Technology in psychiatry currently, is not at its full potential. Psychiatry commonly started to get deep into Telehealth, especially during and after the pandemic, Telehealth became very popular in the field of psychiatry. But there are so many types of technology that can expand the field of psychiatry, and psychotherapy, very much. Many AI and mental health apps currently do not offer as much as they can, because many of these apps are not designed to. Therapeutic apps, and chatbots online, cannot fully identify a person’s symptoms and emotions that they may be feeling, and many fail to succeed in helping people heal. Technologies today often have no balance in the use of real life problem solving, and the use of technology. The future of technology in psychiatry should be precisely helping
psychiatrists have a technology that can easily and effectively flow into clinical use. It’s not only about the technology, it’s about how the technology allows the psychiatrist to make a decision, or to be precise with given data from technology such as AI. Technology in psychiatry should be developed in a way where psychiatrists are not leaving out patients' opinions and real life experiences over the technology, and should be able to deal with any type of patient, and mental health issue. The digital era of psychiatry can come sooner than we think, and in fact hit the field of psychiatry very quickly when the pandemic came upon the world. Emergencies happen all the time, and psychiatrists and therapists can’t be with patients 24/7, so an improvement in technology such as chatbots and a development in AI for psychiatry would be a creation for expansion in the psychiatric field. Digital psychiatry has an immense future if developed well and implemented correctly. Many mental health apps cannot even respond or give diagnoses, so imagine what developed AI and technology could do to the field of psychiatry. Wearables and health apps only focus on physical aspects, such as heart rate and simple functioning. But imagine if these apps could recognize depression, or these wearables could identify anxiety attacks or triggers about to come on. Technology being developed for psychiatry could not only help the field itself, it could be a total catalyst for helping medicine and health expand as well. The future of technology in psychiatry should include privacy, and allow patients to expose what they want, and keep what they want confidential. Many sensors are being developed to track and sense symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as severe conditions such as bipolar disorder, and mania. Digital pills as well, are being developed to help patients stick to medications and have a better outcome with them. AI, digital therapeutics, and mental health apps, as well as Telehealth can all play a huge role in psychiatry. But if further developed and tested, it can not only change psychiatry, but it can expand medicine overall, and change the way psychiatrists and doctors approach mental health treatment.