The National Center for PTSD estimates that about 8 million adults suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder annually. Many of those individuals, it notes separately, also reside in remote areas with limited access to care, which can be mentally and financially burdensome in terms of treatment.
To that end, technology’s role in ensuring those suffering from PTSD receive the care they need continues to grow. Telemedicine through videoconferencing technology is one of the more common ways for providers to care for their patients, but it is by no means the only modality. In fact, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality and wearables are also being deployed to help treat these individuals.
Pushing Personalization Through AI
In May, digital health company Tiatros, which focuses on creating digital tools to improve behavioral care, started using IBM Watson Health Personality Insights and Watson Tone Analyzer application programming interfaces to support its programs, which connect veterans in an online social network setting with their peers. The platform aims to personalize therapies to patients using Watson APIs.
Last month, IBM announced that those Watson-powered programs achieved up to a 73 percent completion rate. That’s crucial because, while researchers estimate that up to 80 percent of veterans can recover from PTSD following completion of treatment programs, less than 10 percent follow through in the first year after being diagnosed.
“We are hopeful about the promise that AI tools hold to help us personalize how we care for veterans with PTSD, and scale our ability to provide successful interventions,” Dr. Kim Norman, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine who studies scalable programs for behavioral health, said in the IBM press release. “We want to transform how we deliver care to them, delivering personalized, relevant content for each individual and using AI technologies to make this possible.”
Meanwhile, researchers at New York University’s Langone Medical Center are working toward diagnosing PTSD using smartphones and machine learning, MIT Technology Review reported earlier this year. Dr. Charles Marmar is analyzing voice samples from veterans recorded on wearables and phones using machine learning to identify vocal cues for disease biomarkers.
Smartwatch Monitoring Passively Collects Data
At Texas A&M University, researchers at the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, School of Public Health and College of Medicine are designing a system that uses sensor-enabled wearable technologies to monitor PTSD patients remotely, outside of a clinical setting, says Dr. Farzan Sasangohar, an assistant professor at the institution.
“User engagement is a general limitation of current remote health technologies including current PTSD mHealth apps,” Sasangohar says. “They do not provide a closed loop, so no information is being sent to the clinician.”
In contrast, the new system in development will passively gather user data via smartwatches and smartphones and automatically send it to clinicians.
“This kind of technology has the prospect of saving millions of lives,” Sasangohar says. “It really paves the way for affordable solutions to improve the quality of care, patient safety and help patients with mental disorders in general.”
Virtual Reality to Immerse Patients
At the University of Southern California’s Institute of Creative Technologies, Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo helps patients to undergo exposure therapy through the use of virtual reality.
Rizzo, ABC News reports, created a program in which patients are immersed in one of 14 virtual worlds that can be customized based on their experiences. While he says the technology can’t exactly duplicate a patient’s experience, it comes pretty close.
“My mission is to drag psychology kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” Rizzo says.