Depression is a chronic mental illness affecting millions across the globe. Physical activities and sleep are some of the key determinates of the incidence, severity, and prognosis of depression. A key challenge in the treatment of mental illnesses, including depression, is a global shortage of mental health professionals. This deficit results in longer gaps between patient-provider interactions, which in turn results in a “recency” effect negatively impacting the understanding of the patient’s symptoms. In other words, patients are likely to reflect on their feelings or experiences over the immediately preceding weeks when asked by the clinician about their progress for the interim period, usually 2–3 months. Mobile health (mhealth) has been a key player in addressing disparities in care. In turn, smartphones, which are easily accessible and have a growing market, are an ideal candidate for patients to maintain a log.
The University of Missouri at Columbia and the Missouri University of Science and Technology at Rolla in collaboration with Cerner Corporation has introduced a smartphone based app to help patients manage depression. The app, MoodTrek, allows patients to log their mood, sleep, and activities and securely share this information with their provider via the patient’s Cerner Millennium Electronic Health Record (EHR). Users are also able to sync a Fitbit with the app to automate the capture of objective information about sleep and physical activity. All data can be accessed by and represented as graphs by both patients and their providers. In addition, the app allows the user to place a phone call to the U.S. National Suicide Hotline with the touch of the button in the event of an emergency. The app is extremely easy to use, taking less than six seconds for a user to login and record their information.
For a clinician, this information provides a better opportunity to understand the progress of a patient between clinic appointments and subsequently improve outcomes from within their currently existing workflow. We anticipate the data captured by the app to improve triaging and overall delivery of mental health across the world, especially in a population health management perspective.
For a patient, we expect to see improved mental wellbeing as they achieve a greater self-awareness of the impact sleep, mood, and physical activities have on each other and modify their lifestyle accordingly. Through this self-awareness, MoodTrek becomes a platform to empower and support patients in the management of their own physical and mental health with guidance from their clinicians.
The app was released to the Google Play Store on March 17, 2015, and is expected to be released to the App Store soon. The app is free to download.
Ganesh Gopalakrishna is Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia MO 65213, U.S.A. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sriram Chellappan is Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO 65401, U.S.A. Email: email@example.com.