It is important that mental health professionals and providers look for newer approaches and methods to complement this standard of care.
An unprecedented increase in mental health cases caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has plagued the health system. There are about 20,000 mental health applications aimed at mental health,1 but despite the introduction and increased use of digital technologies to manage mental health care, almost a quarter (24.7%) of all adults with mental illness report that they are unable to receive the necessary treatment.2
By adding salt to the wound, studies show that approximately 23% of users abandon mobile applications after just one use. This means that a significant number of users of mental health applications will not stick to portable treatment options.
Although there are several aspects of unmet need, such as the lack of available treatment and the shortage of psychiatrists, we can be sure that while a significant portion of the population is not receiving care, something needs to change.
The need for fundamentally different solutions that go beyond digitalisation has been discussed in detail in the past. IN A revolution in digital mental health: transforming care through innovation and expansion The report, which includes contributions from Dr. Tom Insel, former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, calls for new technologies that combine the best of clinical science and consumer engagement. In particular, the report calls for mental health care to return to key “active ingredients” and “then use the full potential of digital technologies and practitioners to create immediate, adaptive and scalable services”.
With this in mind, it is important that mental health professionals and providers look for newer approaches and methods to complement the current standard of care – pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy, provided in person or in a telehealth regimen. In this way, clinicians will be able to improve outcomes, fill the gap in efficacy, accelerate the effectiveness of care and be better positioned to treat patients in need.
Treating the symptoms is not a solution
Mental health treatment options today provide a wide range of approaches to meet different needs. Some approaches may try to target some key players in mental health issues in an attempt to gain access to key issues.
The standard biopsychosocial model takes into account the effects of biology, psychology, and environmental factors that contribute to the development of mental disorders. Although admirable in their efforts to adhere to the biopsychosocial paradigm, current standard approaches to the treatment of mental disorders can be further improved by considering several key elements that limit their effectiveness.
One such limitation is the general lack of information about the mechanism of action of some psychiatric drugs. Although some medications are prescribed in a trial-and-error format, a deeper understanding of the underlying issues may be able to improve this process.
Mental health professionals need all the help they can get to provide better care. By adding new tools and technologies to the mix that – in tandem with current treatments – widen their bandwidth to treat more patients or allow them to provide adequate care faster, we will be in a better position to achieving improved results.
Deeper with brain-specific biomarkers
An effective way for non-invasive and accurate analysis of brain region function is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Unfortunately, fMRI is not widely available or scalable, as the technology is extremely expensive. As a result, therapeutic modalities, such as providing neurofeedback using fMRI, cannot be practiced on a large scale in clinics.
With this in mind, recent advances that use machine learning to merge spatial data from EEG and fMRI now allow research teams to produce EEG-calculated biomarkers loaded from fMRI spatial data. This in turn allows teams to cost-effectively and widely measure significant and revealing brain biomarkers.
In addition, with such a new therapeutic modality, patients will be able to experience and even influence the progress of treatment in real time. With current treatments, patients are rarely able to directly influence the care process, other than the patient’s great effort or adherence to medical regimens.
New solutions working with fMRI-EEG technology are changing the treatment process. By receiving real-time neurological feedback, patients can see the state of their brain regulation and therefore make conscious adjustments. By allowing patients to take on more meaningful roles in their care journeys, they gain a greater sense of control, which can be both inspiring and promising.
Using brain biomarkers, clinicians can ultimately measure pathological processes in the body. In conjunction with current solutions, this better understanding may increase the ability to predict clinical outcomes.
Using this approach, providers will be better placed to understand brain regions that are associated with emotional dysregulation in patients with mental disorders. As a result, more personalized treatment options will be available, enabling clinicians to provide more comprehensive care.
New solutions pave the way for new results
With patients with varying levels of mental health severity in need of treatment, it is time to add a new layer to mental health treatment. By introducing new solutions that complement ongoing therapies and introduce a deeper understanding of the major brain regions responsible for mental health dysregulation, clinicians will be better prepared to improve clinical outcomes and allow patients to gain control over their lives. .
By speeding up and improving the care process and providing clinicians with a wider range of tools, clinicians will be able to care for more patients and achieve improved clinical outcomes by helping to alleviate the current burden of mental health. Using agency-based modalities, patients become part of their own treatment regimen, providing the opportunity for better care and health outcomes.
About the author
Oded Kraft is the CEO and co-founder of GrayMatters Health.
1. Mental health applications monitor the influx of downloads, but choosing the right one is important. ECAlliance. https://echalliance.com/mental-health-apps-are-seeing-a-surge-of-downloads-but-choosing-the-right-one-matters/. October 20, 2020. Visited May 31, 2022
2. The state of mental health in America. Mental Health America. https://www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america. Accessed May 31, 2022.