Smart phones can now be used to improve mental health care.
Israel’s new company Lifegraph has developed technology that lets, even from far away, through their smart phones and other mobile devices. This new app, it is hoped, will even reduce the need for institutionalizing such patients.
Lifegraph has been developing an integrated platform that offers a way to harness smartphones for promoting care in psychiatric patients. A fully operational smartphone application consistently acquires data which is sent to the company’s servers. Advanced algorithms analyze these data to detect changes in a patient’s sleep, social communication, mobility and vocal characteristics.
A visualization system displays the information and provides psychiatrists with innovative insight into the behavioral patterns of the patient. This system provides a more accurate and objective view, thus aiding clinical decisions, improving treatment and reducing the burden of the disease on the patient, their family and society.
Basically, the device monitors an individual’s mental state and can detect any changes in mood. It also sends an update to a physician or caregiver in real time.
The LifeGraph platform is developed with strong emphasis on end-users insights, achieved by working closely with mental health centers, and an on-board advising psychiatrist. The platform is already utilized as part of Helsinki-approved clinical studies that are currently being held in Mental Health Centers in Israel.
In a press release the startup’s founder Dr. Uri Nevo said, “The diagnosis of mental health disease is based only on behavioral patterns. In some cases, a patient is discharged from the hospital into a vacuum, with no idea how to monitor his or her new state of mind. Because most people own smartphones today, we thought, ‘Why not harness the smartphone, a reservoir of daily activities, to monitor behavioral patterns?’
“Bipolar disorder, for example, starts with a manic episode. A patient who usually makes five or ten calls a day might suddenly start making dozens of calls a day. How much they talk, text, how many places they visit, when they go to bed and for how long – these are all indicators of mental health and provide important insights to clinicians who want to catch a disorder before it is full blown.”
The app’s developers have pointed to statistics from the World Health Organization that show that mental illness is responsible for 90% of all reported suicides and places the largest burden of any disease on social and economic infrastructures worldwide, according to. They feel that there is a dire need for support services to assist clinicians in the evaluation and treatment of those suffering from mental illness.
Jonathan Marton is responsible for algorithm and infrastructure development for LifeGraph. About the company’s funding and future he told JBN, “We have received a large grant from Israel’s chief scientist and are not looking for private funding at this time. But we are looking into developing a full product and a viable company eventually, but these types of technological solutions need a very strong research background to prove efficiency so we need to take our time. This is why it is advantageous for us to be a research group at a university.”
With regards to the current lack of advanced diagnostic tools in the field of psychiatry Martin said, “Our main vision is to advance the cause of treatment in psychological illnesses so that it will be the same as with physical illnesses. In order to do so we need to develop new diagnostic tools such as LifeGraph.”
The startup up is led by Dr. Uri Nevo, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine, who founded the project. Uri Nevo leads the Laboratory for Celullar Biophysics and Imaging.
Dr. Nevo’s research is multidisciplinary and he has released many articles in the fields of MRI, biophysics, and immunology.
Jonathan Marton is a medical engineer with a Bsc from TAU.