In the era of ever-evolving technology, it isn’t difficult to envision Smartphones being used for monitoring and intervention in mental health.  As depression represents a significant burden to both patients and society, and as more than two-thirds of patients with a mental health disorder own a Smartphone, the convergence of the two represents not only a plausible but a practical and efficient method for symptom management. In her presentation, “Preliminary Findings From the Smartphone and Online Usage-Based Evaluation for Depression Study,” Nidal Moukaddam, MD, PhD, from Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas, and colleagues identify both the advantages and the challenges of using mobile devices to manage depression in patients.  As there are many screening-based mobile apps available, and use of mobile technology is often intuitive, this technology could provide a stigma-free care option.  However, mental health conditions are often poorly defined, and there are often differing levels of understanding between patient and clinician.  In addition, the sheer volume of data generated by the technology could present a barrier to implementation.  The investigators therefore used a mobile app that assessed self-input information and sensor data, combined with screening instruments (PHQ-9, HAM-D, HAM-A), to monitor 25 patients for depressive symptomatology. Results of the study indicated an 82.47% adherence rate for daily self-reported mood.  The authors propose that Smartphone data “may serve as an educational tool for the patient, as an adjunct for information gathering for the physician, and as a tool to improve the physician-patient relationship.”                                                                      

Rounding out the New Research Press Briefing was a study on trends in hospital admissions for depression conducted by Ankur Patel, MD, from the department of psychiatry at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and colleagues.  Although guidelines advise pharmacotherapy or psychological intervention for patients with moderate to severe depression, Dr Patel reports that “less than 50% of patients with depression are actually receiving treatment.” The researchers conducted a database review to identify trends in hospitalizations to better identify patients who are more or less likely to be admitted for depression.  Their investigation revealed significant racial/ethnic and economic disparities, with underserved populations having longer hospitalizations and incurring greater expense.  In addition, general trends in hospital admissions for depression have been steadily increasing.  As underrecognition and undertreatment of depression have significant clinical and economic implications, this study draws attention to the need for effective treatment to mitigate the long-term morbidity associated with this prevalent condition and ultimately improve health outcomes.


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Click here for more research from the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.