The Power & Promise of Digital Measurement-Based Care in Mental Health
Author: Andrew Turtle, Honoury Member of the Global Mental Health Peer Network and chairperson of the Consumer And Carers Advisory Committee of the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network
In 2020, the founder of mental health venture capital organisation What If Ventures, Stephen Hayes, documented that mental health startups were approaching 1,000 in number. As this number continues to grow, these digital technologies provide global-wide opportunities to anyone with an internet access, including those in remote locations and in developing settings.
One of the categories of startups Hayes identified was ‘Measurement and Testing’ Startups. At the time of Hayes’s analysis, there were 119 of these startups, a number that continues to climb. ‘Measurement and Testing’ Startups use sophisticated digital technologies and algorithms to assess and track a range of symptoms and lifestyle metrics, as well as information from a range of technologies, such as wearable devices. This gives the consumer a deeper understanding of their mental health situation, allowing them to coordinate more personalised and individualised care. At the time of Hayes’s article, ‘Measurement and Testing’ startups comprised 16.9% of the total mental health startups and 7% of the funding allocated to mental health startups. I have termed these startups ‘Measurement and Tracking Startups’ as I believe this is a more accurate representation of what these organisations provide.
One Measurement and Tracking startup that is becoming a leader in this field is the Blueprint platform. The Blueprint platform collects, tracks, analyses and aggregates data through a Digital Measurement-Based Mental Health Care Model. This model of care gathers data autonomously to allow for real-time measurements against emotional, cognitive and behavioural outcomes. Not only do comprehensive screeners provide a baseline measure, but that aggregated data provides organisational and even population-level insights.
The features provided by the Blueprint platform are truly remarkable, demonstrating how far these digital technologies have come. Compared to other mental health interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy and psychiatry, measurement and tracking platforms provide a relatively effective, cheap and personalised alternative. Features include a customised assessment library, clinical and billing portals as well as a dashboard that visualises the participant’s progress objectively in real time, meaning such platforms can keep mental health professionals accountable for the interventions they deliver. As a result measurement and tracking platforms provide a one-stop-shop to go from baseline to aggregation to help participants and their health and wellness team make more informed decisions to adapt and make changes to their habits, emotions and thoughts.
It is the promise of applying the method of measurement and tracking platforms across the whole population that is the most exciting. Using such strategies, the data-driven world would provide an opportunity to quantify and qualify our research and experience, transcending the realms that the scientific method can undertake on its own. Longitudinal and cohort studies could be run across society-wide databases, registers, depositories, clearinghouses, search engines and/or blockchains, to replace randomised control studies as the gold standard of research methodology. It would not be necessary to validate the scientific significance of research samples, as it would be the entire population that would become the sample.
The success of measurement and tracking devices is crucial to data scientists running sophisticated analysis across population-wide databases of genomics, biomarkers, behavioural markers, lifestyle data and so on. Integrated with information from self-tracking devices (the quantified self), smart utility devices, environmental measurement technologies and other promises of the internet of everything (IoE), data collected in all areas of our lives would allow measurement and tracking devices to determine whether progress is occurring in all areas of our lives including our physical, biological, mental and social exchanges. This will provide a space for continual, real-time auditing in our supply (value) chains, social interactions, financial transactions and performance in our workplaces, to ensure everyone and everything is working at their optimal level. By autonomously collecting and tracking data, it will be possible to run real-time reports that can be visualised and graphically displayed in single, centralised dashboards, user interface and/or portal for the whole population, much like the promise of electronic health records attempted to provide.
Leading digital platforms such as Facebook and Amazon, all of whom began as startups, use the data they collect to curate services to more strategically target their products and services. They all measure and track their consumer’s lifestyle patterns as well as their spending and engagement habits to maximise profits, and expand their reach through networks. Measurement and tracking platforms provide more than just an opportunity to make mental health care more personalised, prevention-focused and for participants to become more engaged in their own intervention process. Aggregating this data can in fact formulate insights to measure and track progress across all areas of our lives. By integrating the best of cutting-edge technologies like the Blueprint platform, we could systematically roll out the most effective technologies for the benefit of all, to see progress both individually and potentially throughout the whole global society.