Blockchain and Mental Health

In the United States, millions of people are affected by mental illness each year. It’s important to measure how common mental illness is, so we can understand the physical, social, and financial impact it has on individuals and families.

  •   1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  •   1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  •   1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  •   50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
  •   Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 

In 2016, only 41% of the 3.1 million adolescents who experienced depression within the past year received treatment. Although effective treatments exist for many mental disorders, unfortunately, over half of adolescents in the U.S. who need mental health treatment never receive it. Further, compared with whites, growing evidence indicates that Black and racial/ethnic minority adolescents are more vulnerable to undiagnosed mental disorders, but are less likely to have access to mental health services. Over 15 million children and adolescents need psychiatric help, but there are only 8,300 child and adolescent psychiatrist practices in the United States and children and adolescents in rural communities often go their entire life without access to mental health services. 

One of the difficulties in mental health care is diagnosis and patient record access. Physicians cannot simply take blood tests and scans to find the problem. Oftentimes, patients will feel like they need to hide their real symptoms from their doctors because they are ashamed, confused, scared, and anxious, many of which are symptoms brought on by their condition. In many cases, patients, especially children and adolescents, do not know how to communicate effectively about their condition. If there is a proper diagnosis and the patient ends up at a different hospital or clinic, which is oftentimes very common for this age group, and another problem arises, there is poor or no ability for care providers to gain access to different platforms to obtain patient records.

Strategies to improve health care in general, such as improving access to care and improving the quality of care, would do much to eliminate such health care disparities in pediatrics. Patient related outcome measures (PROMs) and improvements depend on the system’s ability to share data across clinicians, labs, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other staff, departments, and settings. It seems obvious that when health care providers have access to complete and accurate information, patients receive better medical care, but communication among patient’s healthcare teams is often disjointed and vital connections and collaborations amongst clinicians and data producers are lost under the burden of disenfranchised, siloed, manual, chart-abstracted data collection. In many cases, clinical data is captured on various systems, even within an organization, that are often not well integrated with one another.

Problems within IT can also disrupt the delivery of care and increase the likelihood of new, often unforeseen, errors that affect the safety and quality of clinical care and outcomes. A secure quality improvement data collection tracking mechanism, using a novel blockchain and artificial intelligence application, would address the information silos that can contribute to suboptimal patient care. The application, sharable among multiple healthcare providers in real time and accessible to interdisciplinary healthcare teams, could  improve patient care and outcomes, both physical and mental.

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