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Comment & Response
February 6, 2018

Technology as a Tool for Mental Disorders—Reply

Author Affiliations
  • 1Mindstrong Health, Palo Alto, California
JAMA. 2018;319(5):504. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.20353

In Reply I appreciate the suggestion from Dr Philip and colleagues that there may be multiple technologies that can improve health care, especially for those with a mental disorder. My Viewpoint described digital phenotyping as a compelling new opportunity for assessing mood and cognition with passive data collected on smartphones. The goal is to collect actionable data continuously, ecologically, ubiquitously, and passively, without any effort from the patient other than owning, charging, and using a smartphone. With more than 2 billion smartphones now in circulation and projections of close to 3 billion by 2020, smartphones are already more ubiquitous than clean water.1 Philip and colleagues are concerned that smartphones are not available to almost one-third of people in the United States. This issue, often addressed as the “digital divide,” may be more generational than socioeconomic. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center reported that 96% of the US population between the ages of 18-29 years (peak ages for onset of a mental disorder) live in a home with a smartphone.2 The use of phones in this age cohort is so intense that most attention has been focused on smartphones as a source of mental health problems rather than considering how the phone could offer a solution.3 I encourage Philip and colleagues to develop “empathic interfaces” and other “secured medical devices,” but why not recognize the unprecedented opportunity to use a powerful technology that is already in nearly every young person’s pocket?