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January 2016

Why Psychiatry Needs Data Science and Data Science Needs PsychiatryConnecting With Technology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Psychotic Disorders Division, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts
JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(1):3-4. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2622

There is a growing uneasiness among the public as well as among physicians, and especially among the younger generation, that health needs are not being met and that biomedical research is not having a sufficient impact in human terms.

George Engel, Science, 19771

No one would dispute the tremendous advances in basic neuroscience, genetics, and technology that continue to provide a powerful beacon of hope for our future understanding of mental health. And yet, for millions of individuals who experience significant psychiatric distress on a daily basis, Engel’s powerful and humbling observation remains as true today in many respects as in 1977.1 A New York Times article suggested that perhaps a return to the era of institutionalization is warranted2; comments on that piece rightly pointed out the many flaws with an institutional model, while others made ethical arguments that the wraparound services these institutions provided are desperately needed. While there is truth to both arguments, here we suggest that technology and data science, leveraged in a variety of ways and settings across both clinical and research domains, present the field with a middle way whose time has come.

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