Today, you may watch an old high-school friend’s daughter take her first steps in Brazil (where they now live), cash a cheque into your bank account, and get live updates on Scotland’s referendum — and do all of this with your smartphone without leaving your living room. Technology has transformed our lives.

Will it transform Psychiatry?

This week’s Reading of the Week is an article discussing apps being developed to help people with major mental illness.

It opens invitingly: “What if a schizophrenic patient could have the equivalent of a therapist in a pocket, watching for symptoms of a relapse?”

Some apps mentioned:

1. CrossCheck for Schizophrenia

An app that builds a profile of a patient’s behavioural patterns — movement (through GPS), duration and frequency of conversations, sleep patterns — and then notes changes, and the possible emergence of illness.

2. Priori for Bipolar

An app that analyzes voice patterns to sense an emerging manic or depressive episode.

3. Companion for Depression and PTSD

An app that looks at vocal characteristics to detect mood and PTSD symptoms.

My thought: these apps are in development and time will tell how many of them will actually prove useful; this much is already clear: technology will soon help us help patients better.

Our Mental Health PSG is embracing technology, moving past the usual bricks-and-mortar approach of health care, by offering Internet-assisted Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through the Adult Outpatient Program. Partnering with Queen’s University, dozens of patients have enrolled in this research project, allowing them to balance their treatment with their work or family obligations. Great for us — and great for the patients we serve.

For more information on The Scarborough Hospital’s iCBT project, see:

Reading of the Week. Every week I pick a reading — often an article or a paper — from the world of Psychiatry.