It might be difficult to try to identify any common factors between mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes. Of course, there are huge and obvious differences between mental disorders and cardiovascular diseases. But there is at least one very important similarity as well, which is inspiring healthcare professionals to adopt a similar approach to diagnosis in both cases.
Here is a little bit about that similar factor and why digital screening tools are proving effective in addressing it, from Zachari Cargnino and his colleagues.
Early Risk Factors
Illnesses like heart disease and diabetes have long been major subjects of research, as medical experts try to not only better understand the illnesses themselves, but also to identify any early warning signs that may give doctors a clue that a patient is on the road to one of those illnesses. Many of these “early risk factors” are just beginning to be identified definitively in studies, and doctors are working to find ways that they can pinpoint those factors and help their patients mitigate their disease risks.
The topic of early risk factors is also one that is of great interest in the field of mental illness. Doctors are already seeing great success with patients that are in the early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, identifying subtle symptoms that, when taken together, give a fairly accurate diagnosis and allow for treatments to begin early enough to have a beneficial effect on the patient’s quality of life.
Computer-based screening systems of various types are very effective in detecting early risk factors in both cardiovascular and mental health contexts. Tests that are administered by humans are always subject to limitations that are largely removed by technological solutions.
In cardiovascular applications, a screening system designed to measure details of blood pressure and heart rate can deliver unprecedented accuracy in its measurements. For instance, the relationship of the different blood pressures in the arm and the ankle of a patient can provide important clues about the possible presence of circulation disorders. New digital screening devices are able to measure this relationship quickly and accurately, helping doctors diagnose the source of their patients’ pain and respond appropriately.
In the field of mental health, digital screenings have a slightly different focus. Early diagnosis of challenging disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression depends on a counselor or mental health professional finding out what the patient is feeling and thinking. It is often very difficult for the patient to “open up” to another person and honestly answer questions about sensitive subjects, but a screening that is private and administered on a tablet computer can be much more effective. By responding to precisely worded, clear questions, the patient can feel more comfortable and confident providing honest answers that can lead to a more accurate diagnosis.
Valuable Customer Service
While patients may not always be thinking on this level, doctors who operate their own private practices are always conscious of customer service. In many areas, there is vigorous competition between practices for a limited number of patients (or customers), and giving those customers access to important new technology-based services can make the difference between having an empty schedule or one filled with appointments. Today’s patients are extremely interested in services that promise detection and diagnosis of early risk factors for a wide range of different disorders, both physical and mental, and it is a huge advantage for a private practice to be able to offer those patients a technology-based solution that provides that diagnosis.
Schools are among the non-medical institutions that are ideal locations for solutions that screen for mental disorders. Making these screenings available to students, military service members, and others who may be at risk for mental disorders is a powerful service, and can save lives by detecting high risks for developing those disorders as early as possible.