How to Google monitor your mental health

unduhanIn recent days, Dr. Tom Insel, M.D., left his post as chief of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, a position that made him the nation’s top mental health physician. A neuroscientist and psychiatrist, Insel is a leading authority on both medicinal and public policies that are necessary to deal with mental problems. Although he’s leaving his government job at 64 years of age, he isn’t retiring; the UK Telegraph reports he’s going to work for Google.

Insel will be working for Google Life Sciences, one of the more unusual divisions of the tech and media behemoth. He is going to apply his expertise investigating how technology can be employed to help diagnose and treat mental health conditions, according to a blog post at the National Institutes of Health.

The company that has been busted repeatedly for fraud and other abusive practices now wants to get into the “business” of repairing minds. What could go wrong?

“Wearable” technology is key to Google’s new mind endeavor

Then again, Google is merely launching into a technological field other companies have already entered. Apple, IBM and Intel are among those exploring the same field, the Telegraph reported, adding:

IBM this year carried out research with Columbia University that suggested computer analysis of speech patterns can more accurately predict the onset of psychosis than conventional tests involving blood samples or brain scans. Other researchers theorize that a person’s internet search history or even shopping habits (so handily recorded by your innocuous loyalty card) can identify the first signs of mental illness. Computers can now tell when something is about to go terribly wrong in someone’s mind.

As scary as that technology is in and of itself, the manner in which researchers like Insel want to utilize the technology ought to raise even more alarms and questions.

There is no question that wearable technology is growing in popularity and use, and that is especially true when it comes to wearable medical technology. Think about devices like Fitbits, which are used by a growing number of people who want to track their physical activity. Even some businesses and corporations are offering them to employees at discounted prices or for free because they see long-term cost benefits such as lowerhealth insurance/health care costs from their use by employees. These devices also monitor movements, pulse rates, sleep patterns and more.

Using technology to self-monitor has benefited health care by allowing patients to electronically transmit their health conditions in real time, reducing the number of routine and expensive medical consultations with providers and ensuring a faster response to changes in health that require intervention and attention.

Therefore, it is highly likely that self-monitoring will also begin to play a larger role in public health, and governments seeking reductions in taxpayer-supported expenditures will likely adopt them.

However, with these devices in use in both the private and public sectors – in which they might eventually become requirements of insurance companies and government agencies – the wearers will be in danger of having all of their activities monitored.

What if you want to sneak in an extra beer or glass of wine? That will be monitored. How about a sinful snack? The extra glucose will show up. Imagine the possibilities.