Forecast 2021: What’s to Come for Mental Health 

Forecast 2021: What’s to Come for Mental Health 

2020: A global pandemic. A crisis in mental healthcare. A clarion call for changes to mental health support. In this post, we take a brief look at what is to come in terms of technology and mental health for 2021, with the hope that next year will represent an advancement in mental healthcare for all. 

2020 has been an ambivalent year when we speak of mental health. On one hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged multiple stakeholders—scientists, companies, national/international organizations, and even citizens—to recognize the importance of mental health and adopt tools and strategies in favor of providing care to at-risk populations. Yet, on the other hand, the global health crisis has also exacerbated the existing shortfalls in mental support in health systems, with stress and anxiety levels reaching all-time highs in an unprecendented number of people.

So, with January just around the corner, what are we to expect for 2021 in terms of mental health, and with a particular emphasis on technology? 

Although COVID-19 vaccines will be administered within the coming year, the residual psychological effects of the pandemic will remain. At the same time, though, individuals and organizations have discovered resourceful, possibly sustainable solutions to adapt to the waves of sudden changes. 

In this post, we take a look at what is to come for mental health in 2021, focusing on 5G technology, telemedicine, digital therapeutics, virtual reality, and online health communities. 

5G Networks and Telemedicine

5G Networks and Telemedicine

For those unfamiliar with the fifth-generation mobile network, 5G builds upon its predecessors (1G, 2G, 3G, 4G) to offer higher multi-Gnps peak data speeds, extremely low latency, and stronger reliability.

The overall increased performance when compared to that of other networks makes 5G  appealing in health care, especially in telemedecine already in place. 

To illustrate, the COVID-19 pandemic forced numerous health systems to reduce in-person, non-emergency services to provide online consultations to patients instead. In mental care settings, specifically, therapists have leveraged telehealth technology to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission and continue sessions with patients online. 

However, interrupted sessions or blurry images due to poor internet connection was a major issue faced among many mental healthcare professionals. 

The prospective, complete integration of 5G technology could facilitate online sessions, providing a smoother experience for both therapist and patient, and ultimately increasing overall patient satisfaction. 

Online Health Communities 

As society further continues moving towards a digitalized future, online health communities will become even more popular. These online gatherings will provide patients with the opportunity to discover new sources of information, listen to other patients’ experiences and reiterate a sense of belonging. 

For example, in a study of an online smoking cessation support group, investigators Selby et al. found that online social support networks may have proven advantageous to those who needed immediate assistance with quitting. When recent quitters expressed their struggle in kicking the habit, other members who had quit for a month or more provided the most responses and emotional support. 

These findings suggest that while mental health issues may vary from one individual to the next, most patients may use online communities like those on Facebook for emotional guidance and encouragement from people facing similar concerns. 

Digital therapeutics and virtual reality

Digital therapeutics

Software-developed devices and apps will become more prevalent in supporting treatments of patients with mental and behavioral conditions. Evidence-based and appealing to younger generations more engaged with technology, digital therapeutics incorporates bahavioral science, patient data, gamification, and more to help patients develop and maintain healthy mental and behavioral habits. 

For instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently paved the way for a prescription cognitive behavioral therapy app called reSET-O. Under the supervision of a healthcare professional, outpatients with an opioid use disorder (OUD) use this app while receiving treatment including buprenorphine and contingency management.

Another clear example is that of virtual reality (VR) technology within a clinical mental context. To date, VR therapy has proven to provide patients with an immersive and engaging setting that addresses mental health issues effectively while still addressing the five lines of approach: exposure, distraction, motivation, measurement, and engagement. Nonetheless, this is not the only way that VR technology is and will be shifting the mental health landscape

Indeed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even medical research and clinical trials are beginning to explore how VR can promote a consistent, calm environment for all research participants—independent of the actual “look and feel” of individual homes—to control for the environmental influence on biomarkers and health.  Similarly, investigators are evaluating the role of VR in strengthening social interaction and interpersonal connection (which suffered dramatically due to COVID-19 confinement measures) for higher levels of participation in trials. 

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2020 may have been a year of unexpected changes and uncertainty. However, 2021 does not have to be. With Psious, you can count on effective, evidence-based, and state-of-the-art VR technology to support patient care and boost patient satisfaction. 

If you would like to set up a demo session, please feel free to contact us. We would love to speak with you!

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