How and why tablets will transform mental health care

January 7, 2012

The tablet industry is providing physicians with new opportunities to profoundly optimize their clinical practice. As a psychiatrist, I am most excited about the promise tablet devices and tablet-oriented technology holds for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, bipolar and other psychiatric disorders.

The basic functionality of tablet applications allows physicians to efficiently distribute selective information to patients about their symptoms, diagnosis and medication. But the more profound use of tablet applications involves capturing a patient’s actual experience and response to a treatment.

This two-way communication is desperately needed in psychiatry as many patients and their physicians spend years experimenting with various combinations of medications and doses. This trial and error period can produce serious negative side effects including decreased appetite, irritability, moodiness and insomnia.

The primary cause of lengthy psychiatric medication trial and error periods is a lack of real time information about the medication’s efficacy in different settings and times. Psychiatric medications differ widely based on their mechanism of action and duration within the brain, as well as the rate at which a medication is metabolized.

Patients and physicians can’t effectively gauge drug efficacy based on patients’ medical history because it doesn’t reflect how different medications respond to unique tasks and environment-related pressures.

Tablet application platforms provide physicians with a clearer, real time view of how well various psychiatric medications work in a patient’s day-to-day life. Through a tablet app, patients can provide their physicians with information related to a medication’s pharmacokinetics, or its onset and duration, as well as its pharmacodynamics, or the time course and effectiveness in actual life events.

For example, a patient could input information about a psychiatric medications performance in different settings, such as during unique assigned work tasks or while withstanding specific distractions.

Captured the moment a patient experiences it, this performance information can be instantly moved from the patient to the physician via a tablet for joint review in the next treatment session. As a result, the physician has a better-informed patient and the patient has a physician who is aware of his/her specific response to actual tasks performed in actual settings on real medications which may not be optimally active during his/her meeting with the physician.

In situations like this, not only is information shared, but mutual respect and collaboration are enhanced.

An application that asks the right questions might help the patient find the optimal medication, dose, delivery mechanism and treatment regimen – their personal “Best Fit.”

Suddenly, a humble application becomes the conduit between the patient’s real-time experience of their prescribed medication and the physician responsible for the next prescription.

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