Tech Is Expanding Access And Deepening Perspectives
How Digital Therapies Support The Learning Brain
Imagine seeking help during a mental health crisis—only to be told by a psychologist’s office that the next available appointment is in five weeks.
For a variety of reasons, including more demand and an aging pool of practitioners, the U.S. is seeing a critical shortage of mental health professionals. Thirty-seven percent of Americans live in places that are seeing shortages of mental health professionals, and wait times to see one in certain states have grown to as long as several weeks—or even more. Only 44.8% of people with any mental illness reported receiving treatment in 2019, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
By mainstreaming the use of videoconference technology, the Covid-19 pandemic is sparking a swift transition to telehealth practices—like so many of us these days, psychologists are a quick screen call away. Virtual appointments eliminate the need for patients to travel long distances in places where mental health professionals are sparse, and they’re easier to obtain on short notice. Best of all, the emergence of digital tools in psychotherapy can help augment care when a face-to-face visit to the doctor’s office isn’t possible.
That’s important, because psychotherapy is such an critical treatment for mental health. The brain’s inherent plasticity—its ability to physically change in response to stimuli—makes it capable of “rewiring” itself, and therapy performed by a mental health professional harnesses it for the benefit of the patient.
Telehealth-enabled therapy could therefore make a difference in a country where about 25% of the adult population suffers from mental illness in any single year. Nor is virtual therapy the only solution in the mental health space. Under development are apps that offer specific therapeutic treatments such as guided meditation sessions, as well as new types of delivery mechanisms via augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and video game technology—all toward stimulating the human brain to adapt to change and potentially help heal itself.
Cognitive behavioral therapy that activates the brain’s plasticity lends itself really nicely to technology and particularly apps.”
HEAR MORE ABOUT MENTAL HEALTHCARE AND TECH FROM
JOE POWERS, VP & CHIEF DIGITAL BUSINESS OFFICER, OTSUKA AMERICA PHARMACEUTICAL, INC.
Digital Tools For Individualized Care
New digital tools and technologies are empowering patients in disease management and supporting the therapeutic alliance between patients and their care teams.
Digital pills, for example, can fuse pharmaceutical elements with technology—such as sensors that can communicate with a patient’s mobile phone. No bigger than standard pills, these sophisticated examples of nanotechnology confirm that medicine has been ingested and can send that information to a patient’s doctors and caregivers. By capturing data relating to ingestion, this tech provides a valuable benefit to individual patients as well, helping them keep track of their medication regimes.
Just as important as the specific effects of ingestible devices, of course, will be the data that they amass—data that could lead to new breakthroughs.
Knowing whether or not a patient is taking their medicine will go a long way in helping the healthcare team identify whether or not an individual therapy
HEAR MORE ABOUT SENSOR-EQUIPPED PILLS FROM INNES MELDRUM, SENIOR VP & CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER, OTSUKA AMERICA PHARMACEUTICAL, INC.
Going Back To The Future To Explore New Possibilities
Psilocybin Moves Closer
To Medical Use
For decades, active psychedelic compounds were shrouded in secrecy and dismissed, given their association with the counterculture. Concerns about drug abuse led to the federal government’s listing them as Schedule I controlled substances in 1970.
But now some researchers maintain that psilocybin, the active psychedelic compound in hallucinogenic mushrooms, can be effective in treating mental illnesses like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia nervosa.
Initial research indicates that 71% of patients (n=24) reported clinically significant reductions in depressive symptoms after their first four weeks of treatment with psilocybin, administered under controlled circumstances and coupled with psychotherapy. Pharmaceutical companies have also started synthesizing new chemical entities that mimic psilocybin’s beneficial ability to promote brain neuroplasticity—but without causing hallucinations.
Some in the field think that evidence emerging from clinical trials could eventually make psilocybin a breakthrough treatment for depression—and that we could see a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved within five to six years.
Given the current trajectory of research in this field, this could be a new breakthrough addition to the physician's toolbox to treat mental illness.”
HEAR MORE ABOUT PSYCHEDELICS FROM Kabir Nath, President & CEO, Otsuka North America Pharmaceuticals