There is one predictable comment that I get when I’m discussing treatment technology with clinical teams – “Our consumers can’t use that [name a technology]. They can’t use computers and smartphones – and they don’t have the money to access them.”
What I think they are saying is that individuals with cognitive disorders can’t use the new array of apps and web sites and health monitoring tools that are becoming commercially available. And, I also think this is shorthand for, we (the management team) don’t need to know how to use these technologies.
But, au contraire. In fact, consumers with cognitive disabilities of all types are making great use of these emerging technologies (I’ll get to the access issue later) – and organizations that serve these consumers run the risk of obsolesce by not keeping on top of the tech and the trends. Here’s a quick summary of what’s out there now…
Consumers With Serious Mental Illnesses
For consumers with serious mental illness (SMI), the rate of mobile phone use is both comparable to the general public, and showing success as an engagement and treatment tool. According to researchers from the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center’s Geisel School of Medicine, 72% of survey respondents with serious mental illness reported owning and using a mobile device (see Mobile technologies among people with serious mental illness: opportunities for future services). A recent study found that the majority of participants with SMI willing and able to engage in treatments using mobile phones over an extended period (see Mobile Assessment and Treatment for Schizophrenia (MATS): A Pilot Trial of An Interactive Text-Messaging Intervention for Medication Adherence, Socialization, and Auditory Hallucinations).
Consumers With Autism
While we don’t have a national survey providing statistics on the use of technology by consumers with autism, if the commercial market is any indication, the available assistive technologies for this consumer group is on the rise. According to Pradnya Joshi in Finding Good Apps for Children With Autism, “The Apple iPad has been hailed as a savior for assisting children with autism spectrum disorder or other special needs….” And, in the ITunes store, there are 30 categories of apps being used with and by people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs.
Consumers With Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease
There are a smattering of apps for consumers with dementias. The apps seem to fall in two categories – brain exercises focused on memory training and personal safety apps. The number of brain training apps are many – Brain Trainer by Lumosity, Brain Bomb, Math vs. Brains, Dr. Kawashima, Memory Trainer, BrainyApp and mTrainer Pro. The personal safety apps are focused on assisting or extending caregiver support – Unus Tactus, The Tweri Alzheimer Caregiver Tool, Dementia Rx, and Dementia.
If serving any of these populations is in your organization’s future, brushing up on the emerging consumer treatment technologies would be a good investment of time.
And one note on the issue of cost of access to these technologies. As we move from fee-for-service payment to value-based payment arrangement for provider organizations, I think provider organizations will find it cost effective to provide high-cost consumers with these technologies in order to reduce both administrative costs and cost of care.
For another free resource, see: The Era of The Tech-Enabled Caregiver all members