The modern patient is more involved in their health, accessing and creating Big Data like never before. Its analysis by artificial intelligence algorithms will change healthcare as we know it, empowering patients and doctors to personalize the mental health care journey.
Earlier this month was mental health awareness week, a fantastic campaign that is really helping make a difference in terms of educating the public about mental health. Not surprisingly, it generated thousands of interesting articles discussing this topic.
One article that caught my attention was the BBCs “Mental health: 10 charts on the scale of the problem”. Now why this specific article?
If you like stats like me – it clearly highlighted the depth of the problem in the UK – one sixth of the population in England aged 16 to 64 have a mental health problem.
It also raised issues, which soon in my opinion will become a thing of the past. England is facing increasing numbers of patients detained under the Mental Health Act due to high-rates of non-treatment and non-compliance – 63,622 detentions in 2015/2016. Patients also face long journeys for treatment, with a patient sent 587 miles to receive treatment!
When it comes to mental health, England is just an example of the problem. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people globally will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. This places mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The fact that mental health is a real, growing problem with significant economic consequences has been well documented for years. Yet, perhaps the most promising development in mental health in recent years is the changing positive attitude towards mental illness. Starting with governmental initiatives, via public campaigns (like “Time to Change” that was launched in 2009 by the leading charities Mind and Rethink in England) through to the patients themselves.
Furthermore, the modern patient is now more involved than ever. Patients are accessing data like never before and are actively searching for treatment alternatives. This new access and sharing of information around the globe, in my opinion is a major factor in helping both raise mental health awareness and change attitudes. It is also driving patients’ increasing needs and expectations about health and mental health in particular. They and their loved ones expect more – faster solutions and more personalized treatments. I like to define it as the age of the “data-driven modern patient”.
It is this changing role of the modern patient, driven by technology capabilities, which will soon deliver a new approach to the care journey of the mental health patient. And with the changing face of mental health will come new challenges for the healthcare industry.
The benefits and challenges of the “data-driven modern patient”
Patients and families are right to expect more. The array of medical devices and wearables combined with novel telehealth solutions, means doctors can now provide ongoing monitoring and better control of their health. Waiting times and long-distance travel should significantly be reduced as technology enables new ways for patients and doctors to interact, helping decrease the need and frequency for clinic visits.
In my opinion, data-driven medicine is the future. Where the analysis of Big Data by Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions to reveal hidden insights and trends, will provide new approaches to deliver personalized care journeys.
This vision is the cornerstone for why I co-founded Taliaz and developed our decision support tool to empower doctors to prescribe the “right” antidepressant sooner.
The double-edge sword
However, the rising expectations caused by the new data-driven modern patient is also a double-edged sword.
They are now well read, with the internet providing them and their loved ones with a wealth of information at their fingertips. They now know their treatment alternatives and wider medical options. They also receive an overwhelming amount of health data – whether from medical devices and wearables or genetic and clinical tests.
Though this huge access to information is changing healthcare for the better, it also has the potential to be harmful – leading to self-(mis)diagnosis and an “I know better than my doctor” approach.
What patients and doctors need is this information analyzed, organized and presented to them in an informative, relevant and “safe” way.
Where data-driven health insights are presented in a manner and format to deliver fast and effective personalized treatment. In other words, data insights presented that are relevant to each specific case, at a specific time-point and which fit each individuals’ demographic background, clinical history and genetic composition.
The good thing is we are not far off.
The personalized mental health care journey
AI solutions, like Taliaz’s predictive algorithm, are already hard at work. For example, using the insights from Taliaz's algorithm, doctors’ decision-making is empowered so they can find the right treatment for their mental health patients sooner. This may help lower rates of non-treatment and non-compliance, and in England, detentions using the Mental Health Act may one day be no longer! Personalized solutions have the potential to significantly increase patients’ and their families’ quality of life, while decreasing the huge financial burden of mental disorders.
At Taliaz, I see our AI algorithm as the first stage in developing a new approach to help the modern patient obtain personalized mental health treatment throughout their care journey.
We have the tools and means to do the “insight-driven analysis” – we now need to be cleverer and look for new approaches that continuously organize, integrate and present this data effectively to the patient and doctor.
The role of Big Data and AI in healthcare has the potential to do this – to reshape the healthcare system as we know it. However, in my opinion, AI solutions, like Taliaz's decision-support tool, should strengthen and empower the doctor’s care role. Giving them more time to spend with their patients, to listen, to better treat and to care for their patients, particularly important in mental health. Therefore, I believe that the doctor is irreplaceable.
The journey to deliver true personalized treatment for the “modern patient” is just beginning! For the mental health sufferer and their families it will be life-changing.