MindMe: WebRTC for the Greater Good
One app aims to harness telemedicine technologies for suicide prevention.
It's a sad fact, but in one way or another, most of us have been or will be touched by the suicide of a relative or friend. I have, and although I may not have been able to prevent either of the two deaths, I will go through life wondering if there was one or two things in my power that might have made a difference. It's a burden that I am sure every suicide survivor bears.
- Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States for people of all ages.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States for 15 to 24 year olds.
- There is one death by suicide in the United States every 12.3 minutes.
- The suicide rate in America is 12.1 for every 100,000 people.
- Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year.
- An estimated quarter of a million people each year become suicide survivors.
- There is one suicide for every estimated 25 attempts.
As sobering as those numbers are, here are two additional statistics that really stand out for me:
- 80 to 90% of adolescents that seek treatment for depression are successfully treated using therapy and/or medication.
- Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment.
This tells me that a great deal of suicides can be prevented if only people reached out for help during their darkest hours.For the Greater Good
Despite the fact that I spend most of my workweek wrapped up in the bits and bytes of SIP trunks, session border controllers, and RTP packets, I would like to think that my efforts play some part in improving the greater good for all humanity. In fact, I addressed that desire in last year's No Jitter article, The Moral Case for Communications, in which I laid out the case that what we here in communications are doing is helping to save lives while improving the quality of life for all people.
With that always in mind, my do-gooder heart high-fived my geeky brain when I learned about the MindMe app and how it's tackling the suicide epidemic head-on.
The goal of MindMe is to essentially become "a digital companion in the pocket" that can help stop a patient's suicidal thoughts before they are taken too far. Using personalized messages, videos, and mental exercises, therapists can design mobile, on-demand treatments that can effectively reinforce the messages delivered during doctor-patient sessions. The intent is not to replace therapy, but to augment it with techniques that can be applied anywhere and at any time. As such, MindMe will regularly check on a patient's state of mind to monitor and reduce the experience of negative emotions.
Sadly, digital reminders and other "distractions" may not be enough in times of severe emotional distress. For these moments, MindMe offers a real-time communications interface that connects patients with trained health professionals, crisis counselors, and other emergency contacts. Similar to a 12-step sponsor, MindMe serves the role of a dependable friend that will help find the assistance a patient needs when he or she most needs it.User-Centric HealthCare Technology
By utilizing Genband's Kandy real-time communications APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), MindMe integrates WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) technology with a series of therapist-developed questions to determine the patient's state of mind throughout the day. Those questions are then used to decide on the best course of action before possibly launching a WebRTC call for personalized, human-touch care. For immediate help, the patient can bypass the questions and instantly connect to a professional trained in suicide crisis management. Again, this emergency call is built on WebRTC technology and provides audio and video between the patient and his or her crisis specialist.
As with any healthcare application, the patient's privacy is always top-of-mind. That's why all communication to and from MindMe is encrypted. Patients can rest assured that at no point in time will their personal data be compromised.
The partnership between healthcare and technology is certainly not unique, but apps like MindMe are taking it to the next level. Rather than putting new technology strictly in the hands of the practitioners, this new breed of patient care is user centric. While there are certainly backend tools that work in concert with MindMe, the goal is to allow users to shape healthcare to meet their individual needs.
Click here for an informative video about MindMe and its groundbreaking role in suicide prevention.
While it's impractical to have therapists follow their patients around as they live their lives, mobile devices equipped with powerful apps can essentially become proxies for the 24/7 assistance that some people so desperately need.
The State of Now
MindMe is currently in beta for the Android platform, but an iPhone version is in development and should become available for testing very soon. The developers of MindMe have launched a crowdfunding effort to raise $100,000 to further develop the app.
I am convinced that MindMe is only the tip of the iceberg. Off the top of my head, I can think of similar apps for diabetics, heart patients, anger management, and those who suffer from chemical dependency. Medical professionals will design the workflow and treatment options, software developers will turn those visions into powerful applications, and WebRTC providers will add the human touch by connecting those in need with those who can deliver timely, and sometimes lifesavings assistance.
We all want to do good in the world, and it's easy to get lost in the mundane aspects of our jobs. Thankfully, there are reminders such as MindMe that the products we create and platforms we support are making a huge difference in the lives of many people.
I hate ending on a sad note, but in the time it took you to read this article the chances are high that someone committed suicide. While MindMe may not be able to stop every tragic death, it may save the life of someone very close to you.
Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.Follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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