Prevention is extremely hard to prescribe - when we think of our future self it is as though they were a different person, one who can take responsibility for going to the gym or stopping smoking instead of us. With the advent of smartphones it has become easier to remind ourselves that the person today is the one who needs to take control. Even apart from the reminders we now set ourselves there are the online communities that provide networks of motivators only a click away. So how has mobile and online interventions helped change the way we think about prevention and mental health? If we look at the possible causes of problems - stress, substance abuse, expectations of stigma, delayed help - we can start to form a picture of how eMental Health can provide a platform for prevention.
Can avatars help those with schizophrenia or suffering from social anxieties? And what does that help entail?
Avatars can be a useful addition to therapy by providing a disconnect for either the patient or the clinician. A computer can pick up on very slight nuances that may be missed and as everything is recorded future sessions can reflect heavily on what has occurred before. So does this mean an avatar is better than a human therapist? Or is it simply a very convenient addition?
Great article in the Guardian by Dr. Ruth Chambers about the use of mobile devices in healthcare. Explains the fact that telehealth is not looking to replace care but is a tool to be used by both the clinician AND the patient. It allows the patient to feel connected and the clinician can respond as needed. I heard Dr Ruth Chambers talk at a recent conference and her enthusiasm is catching. With the NHS looking for ways to be cost-effective and also be seen to be more attentive to patient needs it seems like telehealth can provide at least some of the support required.
After reading an article about apps and whether we can protect our privacy I was intrigued that throughout the article the responses all came down to the same overriding opinion…
“nothing is secure online”
“be aware before you share because that’s your best defense”
I recently wrote a long article about app security and I looked into all the areas that relate to it - emails, SMS, cloud servers, smartphones, etc.. I would consider myself pretty aware of general security issues and I always read the privacy policies (however briefly). But a lot of things came to light that surprised me.
SMS & Emails
For instance, SMS and emails are extremely open to tampering when in the process of transmitting. That means that once you send it someone could theoretically read through it whilst it’s on its journey to the other person.
Your smartphone can have a 16 digit long passcode but if someone wants access they can get it. Human error is the most likely cause - the recent example of Mat Honan whose iCloud details were given to hackers by customer service reps is a perfect example. But there are also ways of detecting the passcode by the smudges on your screen or hacking in via your web browser.
And what about that app you downloaded, are you sure it’s safe? Did you check it for malware? How about your data, where is that going and what’s being done with it? These are questions we need to ask ourselves.
The problem is that people don’t know to ask those questions. We have so much trust in the security systems in place that we never think to worry about what we might need to do to ensure everything is safe.
In conclusion I think the only way we can possibly be sure is if we are informed of the risks and make an educated decision to use an app. This means reading those privacy policies but perhaps if we know what to look for it won’t take up so much of our precious time.