Big Data in Treating Mental Disorders

Big Data in Treating Mental Disorders

Big data is transforming the treatment of mental disorders and the overall life science industry. Monsenso’s mHealth solution shows how technology provides new ways to inform treatment and achieve scalability. This is a guest blog written by Mads Frost is the PhD, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Monsenso

The challenge with mental health today

According to numerous analyses and forecasts conducted by several international organizations and authorities, mental health today is one of the biggest challenges for society and health budgets. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that mental disorders will be the greatest health burden for society in the coming years. This emphasizes the need for solutions to remedy this. Presently, technology is the best bet.

An example of the utilisation of technology to help overcome the burden of mental health for society is Monsenso. Monsenso is an innovation leader in mHealth solutions for the treatment of mental disorders. Monsenso helps support the treatment of mental disorders by inspiring and strengthening cooperation between patients and therapists.

Based on continuous research with leading experts in psychiatry, pervasive healthcare and data science, Monsenso has designed an innovative solution that fits into each patient’s life and helps them to better manage their disease as well as increasing the quality and effectiveness of treatment. It has been developed in a user-centred design approach, with patients, clinicians and relatives, to ensure that the solution is easy to apply and fits into the patient’s life and treatment.

The mental x-ray

Through daily self-assessment, clinical questionnaires, and collection of behavioural data from both sensors in modern Smartphone, wearables, and even voice analyses of patients’ voices, Monsenso provides the patient and the therapist with a detailed insight into the user’s mental health state. Through the application of advanced data analysis, indicators such as behavioural patterns, contexts and even forecasting future conditions and risk levels can be demonstrated – all with the purpose of gaining better insight into the patient’s mental health and providing an improved basis for treatment.

Generally, many organizations are fighting to realize mHealth’s full potential. According to a study where clinicians have been asked: “What is your most pressing information technology problem”, the answer that received the highest percentage of responses was, “turning data into action.” [1]

Psychiatry has previously used paper schemes to collect information from patients. However, but current technology provides access to a wide range of information that has not previously been available. This technology can be called the mental x-ray, in that using this technology can be used to see and monitor mental functioning with x-ray like precision and detail. This allows for early interventions and to help patients when they are in need. An example of this at work is the Monsenso based research into using voice analysis as an objective state marker for bipolar disorder . [2]

Paradigm shift in treatment: How do we achieve scalability?

To achieve the benefits of technology, it is necessary to adapt the clinical workflows. Psychiatry has a very traditional form of treatment where the patient meets the therapist and receives face-to-face treatment. The future brings more patients and fewer therapists – how do we scale this?

One possible solution is to optimising treatment is to use monitoring systems. These systems can rapidly identify which patients are in need of help, and which ones are well. In this way, clinicians’ time can be focused on patients who are in need.  Likewise, the systems can be more treatment-supporting, taking over the trivial and automatable tasks of the clinician, allowing them to spend their time on those with the greatest needs – the complex cases that technology cannot help. The last perspective – a paradigm shift in treatment – is to go from a reactive to a proactive approach. The proactive approach comes from gathering more detailed information, to lead to more informed decisions and earlier interventions. More information can help immediately notify both patients and clinicians when things start to go in the wrong direction, and need help to prevent potential hospitalisations. And the patients, who are well, can focus on life and not illness. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is not a trivial task to realise this.

How should we realise the potential of ‘Big Data’

On an overall level, there are a number of points that companies that are active in data-driven health technology should think about to thrive in complex health environments:

  • Find applications and services that bring tangible value to identifiable stakeholders – it must provide meaning and value to end users
  • Think on a global scale
  • Focus on solutions, not technology
  • Identify potential partners to create greater impact and find new value

Most of all, those who come from the outside into the healthcare domain must avoid the trap of seeing technology as something different from healthcare. Its greatest value will be how it integrates with healthcare systems and allows clinicians to provide better care for patients.

In some cases, technology will appear illusory: Personal contact between patient and therapist will always have a place in treatment, but data driven approaches can revolutionise the basis on which treatment is given.

Where are we going?

There are many possibilities that presents itself when exploring data driven approaches. I have  particularly emphasised ‘Context Aware Computing’ as one of the perspectives that are important to pursue. The goal is to use the context of the patients to provide the right intervention, to the right patient, at the right time, at the right place. This is not a trivial task, but extremely important for solutions like Monsenso to really help patients. The present systems are still relatively unintelligent in terms of achieving this, based on the amount of data available. It is difficult to know the context of what the collected data in the system is based on – what experiences and thoughts the patients have.

[1]  Top 5 industry challenges of 2016 By Aubrey Westgate, November 30, 2015  http://managedhealthcareexecutive.modernmedicine.com/managed-healthcare-executive/news/top-5-industry-challenges-2016?page=0,0

[2]  VOICE ANALYSIS AS AN OBJECTIVE STATE MARKER IN BIPOLAR DISORDER. M Faurholt-Jepsen, J Busk, M Frost, M Vinberg, EM Christensen, O Winther, JE Bardram, and LV Kessing. Translational Psychiatry, 2016. (ISSN: 2158-3188) (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ tp.2016.123), vol: 6, issue: 7, 2016

Mads Frost will be speaking about Big Data & Life Science in Copenhagen on December 7th, Product Market Fit for Health Startups.  Entrance is free. Click on the link to register and attend.

mHealth solutions can improve health outcomes

mHealth solutions can improve health outcomes

mHealth can improve health outcomes in a cost-efficient way, which is especially relevant due to the current financial state of mental healthcare. Nowadays, due to budget constraints and a shortage of qualified personnel, healthcare providers are looking for new ways to reduce administrative processes and improve productivity, with the objective of enabling clinicians to spend more time on patient care rather than processing paperwork. With this in mind, organisations are looking into migrating from paper-based to paperless systems.

Mobile data capturing solutions are beneficial for healthcare professionals and patients alike. Since they improve workflow, these tools enable clinicians to spend more time seeing patients.

MHealth can improves health outcomes by enabling healthcare professionals to save time by allowing them to access patient information more efficiently, ensuring patients receive better care, wherever they are, even if their primary clinician is not available.

Furthermore, communities are looking to form multi-sector collaborations that support their ability to better understand and tackle the social determinants of health. There is a growing need to build capacity beyond the healthcare sector and to find new ways to integrate data from multiple areas with the objective of improving community health.

Providing coordinated care

For people with complex health issues, such as those with a severe mental illness, the coordination of medical and community services can significantly improve their quality of life.

These individuals often require the most costly treatment and care, therefore many communities are aiming to link the available data between social services and clinical services to provide a more comprehensive care.

Using aggregated data to improve community health

Linking aggregated data from different sources may reveal information about a particular population group, enabling healthcare providers to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the health factors in a specific community. Measuring health at a more detailed level allows decision-makers from the public healthcare system to recognise differences, plan more effective interventions, and monitor a particular group over time.

Re-using health-related research data to drive healthcare initiatives

Academic institutions and non-profit organisations continuously conduct research on specific patient-groups. Since these organisations collect and analyse health-and-behavioural-related data on vulnerable populations, this data could be re-used to address related issues and to drive new healthcare initiatives and policies.

In addition to these points, data encryption ensures that all patient information is kept strictly private and protected at all times. International laws require that every organisation accessing patient information should adhere to strict confidentiality conditions.

Interested in using mHealth technology but don’t know how to start?

Interested in using mHealth technology but don’t know how to start?

On a previous blog post, we established that patients value mHealth technology; therefore, the sooner healthcare providers embrace this technology, the better.

Fortunately, mHealth technology does not only offer benefits for patients, it also solves many of today’s healthcare challenges, since it provides public and private healthcare providers the scalability to treat more patients with fewer resources.

Nevertheless, in spite of the clear benefits, most healthcare providers, have not yet fully adopted mHealth technology due to several reasons:

  • Lack of budget
  • Lack of awareness of the benefits of using the technology
  • Feeling overwhelmed on the increasing amount of health apps available
  • Fear of the amount of time needed to learn to use the new technology
  • Strong belief that patients’ lack of the necessary knowledge to use the technology

Fortunately, our mHealth solution can help you avoid these obstacles. Here’s how:

  • Lack of Budget: 
    • A lack of budget may seem like the largest impediment to acquiring digital health tools and necessary technology. However, this should be considered as a valuable investment.  One of the most tangible benefits of using portable, real time updated, mobile health technology is its consistent availability for patients and clinicians. Our mHealth solution synchronises the data from the patient’s smartphone to the clinician’s web portal in real time. Patients can feel connected to their treatment and their clinician beyond scheduled sessions. mHealth technology can ultimately record more data and information regarding the patient’s progress than old pen and paper methods, and provide availability and support for the patient when the clinician cannot physically be there. A more informed treatment can save time and resources for patient and healthcare alike.
  • There are several benefits to using our technology that you may have not known of:
  • Another barrier that healthcare professionals may face is the selection of the right mHealth solution.
    • Although there are currently 165,000 mobile health apps on the market, the selection does not have to be daunting. A good way to begin this selection is by identifying and specifying what types of disorders you would like assistance with from your mHealth app.  Another way to narrow down the selection is through the identification of the mHealth solutions that possess quality stamps (such as CE Marks and ISO certifications) as well as a clinical validation. In order to obtain the certification, these solutions must have passed a set of agreed upon standards for medical devices that cover data security management and quality of material.
  • Interactive and consistent support: 
    • We understand that using technology can be frustrating and difficult, which is why at Monsenso we offer several ways to get help from real people – instead of an automated service.  We offer an interactive support portal and dedicated customer support team, as well as a detailed user guide.

Still have questions about mHealth? Feel free to contact us or leave us a comment below.

Telehealth for mental healthcare, a scalable solution

Telehealth for mental healthcare, a scalable solution

Telehealth for mental healthcare makes a lot of sense since mental health care is generally harder to access than other health services, due to a shortage of qualified mental health providers and coverage limits.  

A report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) titled “Increasing access to behavioural health care through technology” suggests that to be able to reach a larger amount of people, organisations should consider the use of telehealth for mental healthcare.

Teleahealth for mental healthcare

The report mentions that broadly speaking, telehealth for mental health can take two forms:  

  • A caregiver such as a nurse or social worker can use telehealth technology to conduct a distance-based consultation with a mental health specialist to discuss how to handle a patient’s mental health needs
  • A patient can participate in a videoconference session with a mental health specialist

The value telehealth for mental healthcare, was identified by HRSA safety net providers in terms of potential cost savings, efficiency, and expanded access to services. In general the HRSA report mentions the five main benefits of using telehealth tools for mental healthcare:

Improved care delivery

  • Provide a more efficient patient care when they combine patient data with best practices in order to make care decisions. For example, in mental health, clinicians can review data and identify early warning signs for behavioral health concerns
  • Facilitate the access, use and sharing of data and it supports the health system’s move toward collaborative and integrated approaches by strengthening relationships within a team and across agencies
  • The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model of care recognizes the value of care coordination supported by wireless technology
  • Clinics can gain expanded access to experts, like mental health specialists, residing outside the local community. Telehealth can also ease the task of convening consultation sessions between primary care clinicians and behavioral health specialists

Expanded staff capacity

  • Offer care providers more flexibility to deliver health care while on-the-go or from different locations—expanding the clinic’s service offerings
  • Facilitates the hire of part-time, specialized staff who work remotely for multiple clinics
  • Telehealth for mental health can be added to existing clinic operations. Thus, putting a team together is a matter of figuring how to make it work within the context of existing staff and budgets

Enhanced training opportunities

  • Conduct trainings for staff when sessions are devoted to sharing of insights and best practices. These trainings can elevate expertise within an agency and across multiple providers

Cost savings

  • Reduces the cost of care delivery. For example, if a patient suffers a relapse, telehealth enables a care providers to deliver counseling and intervention services quickly through teleconferencing sessions

Patient acceptance and engagement

  • Works around patient fears over accessing services at a certain clinic or neighborhood. Health center patients are frequently reported to be either unable or unwilling to seek services outside of their communities
  • Patient acceptance rates for telehealth in mental health are generally high. One HRSA grantee was surprised over one of their early adopters: a psychiatric patient with a paranoid belief that TV was speaking to him. Surely, telehealth would not work with him. However, the patient successfully participated in a session, and, at one point, looked over to his sister with a grin and said: “see, the television does talk to me.”
  • Patient portals are meeting a demand since people are increasingly turning to search engines to learn about their health concerns prior to accessing care. When patients go online, providers need to be there. Some portals provide patients with access to their health data so that they can take an active role in their treatment

The Monsenso mHealth solution

The Monsenso mHealth solution for mental healthcare supports the use of telehealth technology in the remote treatment of patients suffering from mental illness. Moreover, the report released by the HRSA mentions five main benefits that the use of telehealth brings to mental health care, and the Monsenso mHealth offers all these benefits.

Improved care delivery

With help of the patient’s smartphone, the Monsenso mHealth platform utilizes advanced technology to collect and analyze data on a patient’s behavior. This collection and analysis of data gives the clinician a deep insight into the relationships between the patient’s behavior and the illness.

Expanded staff capacity

The Monsenso mHealth solution enables clinicians to focus on patients who need immediate attention by notifying clinicians automatically if there are any patients who present any triggers or early warning signs.

Enhanced training opportunities

The information on the clinical web portal can be accessed and shared by multiple clinicians even if they are not based in the same geographical location.

Cost savings

The smartphone application enables patients to fill out self-assessments on a daily basis letting the clinicians know how they feel. This information as well as the information collected through the smartphone’s sensors can help clinicians intervene at an early stage, before the patient needs hospitalization.

Patient acceptance and engagement

The patient-oriented clinical evaluations by Monsenso have shown that the compliance rate is very high (87% to 93%), the solution is very useful and extremely usable by patients and clinicians, it helps patients to manage their illness better, and it helps clinicians offer a better treatment


[1] Increasing access to behavioral health care through technology. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (2013, February). http://www.hrsa.gov/publichealth/guidelines/behavioralhealth/behavioralhealthcareaccess.pdf

mHealth -scalable and cost-effective mental healthcare

mHealth -scalable and cost-effective mental healthcare

mHealth offers the opportunity to offer scalable and cost-effective mental healthcare. One of the greatest challenges the healthcare systems face is the long-term care of individuals with severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia since the impact this has on individuals, families and societies is huge. Fortunately, some of these issues can be partially solved with the use of mHealth technology. Besides, the advantages of online therapy are many, including a more personalised treatment, patient-empowerment, teaching self-care and helping people who wouldn’t receive treatment otherwise.

Schizophrenia has an estimated point prevalence of 0.4% and a lifetime risk of 1%, which means that 1 in every 100 people will suffer from schizophrenia during their lifetime. It is the 7th most important illness in terms of years lived with disability, accounting for 2.8% of disability caused by all illnesses. For people aged 15 to 44 years, it is the 3rd most important disease, accounting for 4.9% of disability resulting from all illnesses.

During the last few decades, the European Union has made a huge effort to overcome these barriers and to ensure high-quality, longer-term care for people with severe mental disorders. These efforts started in the 60’s with the development of new pharmacological treatments for psychosis, which radically changed the prognosis of severe mental illness. In the 70’s and the 80’s, there was an emergence of new psychosocial interventions and new concepts of mental health care organisations [1].

Nowadays, there is a need to shift the health care model. The transition from traditional large psychiatric institutions to modern comprehensive community-based models of care, including acute patient units at general hospitals [1].

According to a report published by EU, this shift is necessary due to the following reasons:

  • Accessibility to mental health care of people with longer-term mental disorders is much better with community-based services than with the traditional psychiatric hospitals
  • Community-based services are associated with greater user satisfaction and increased met needs. They also promote better continuity of care making possible to identify and treat more often early relapses
  • The community-based services protect the human rights of people with mental disorders and prevent stigmatisation of those people
  • Studies comparing community-based services with other models of care consistently show significantly better outcomes on adherence to treatment [1]

However, European healthcare systems need to make lots of alterations if they want to provide accessible, effective, high-quality and long-term care to people suffering from severe mental disorders.

Challenges of the transition to new comprehensive community-based models of care

One of the main reasons why the development of long-term mental health services is insufficient is due to the lack of coordination between the different health services. A close coordination, and even joint funding and management of health and social care services is fundamental to cope with the new challenges European mental health systems are now facing. [1].

According to the report, these are the key principles to organise mental health services:

Accessibility: Essential mental health care should be available locally, including outpatient and inpatient care, as well as rehabilitative care. Local services provide continuity of care in a satisfactory manner.

Comprehensiveness: Mental health services should include all facilities and programmes required to meet the essential care needs of the populations.

Coordination and continuity of care: People suffering from severe mental disorders often find it extremely difficult to gain access to various basic services; therefore, it is crucial that services work in a coordinated manner.  This coordination should also include services that are not directly related to health, such as social services and housing services.

Effectiveness: Service development should be guided by evidence of the effectiveness of particular interventions. For example, there is a growing evidence base of effective interventions for many mental disorders, among them depression, schizophrenia and alcohol dependence.

Equity: A person’s access to services of good quality should be based on need. It is quite often that the people who need these type of services the most are the least able to ask for help.

Respect for human rights: Services should respect the autonomy of persons with mental disorders, and encourage such persons to make decisions affecting their lives and treatment [1].

Scalable and cost-effective mental healthcare

The Monsenso mHealth solution does not only offer cost-effective mental healthcare, it can can facilitate five of the six points mentioned in the report to organise mental health services in an optimal way.

Accessibility: With mobile technology and telehealth, care providers can reach patients living in remote locations at a minimal cost. These technologies offer care providers more flexibility to deliver health care while on-the-go or from different locations—expanding the clinic’s service offerings [2].

Coordination and continuity of care: The Monsenso mobile health solution can facilitate and support the care of patients suffering from severe mental illnesses from community-based models. Due to its cloud-based model and unlimited scalability, patient records can be accessed by multiple organisations such as psychiatric institutions, general practitioners, and social services, among others.

Effectiveness and equity: With help of the Monsenso smartphone app, care providers can identify on a daily basis triggers and early warning signs of all patients in the system. With the Monsenso mHealth solution clinicians can prioritize caring for individuals who need immediate attention and continue to monitor individuals who are stable. According to the National Institute of mental health, early intervention is critical to treating mental illness before it can cause tragic results such as serious impairment, unemployment, homelessness, poverty, and suicide [4].

 Respect for human rights: The Monsenso smartphone app enables patients to fill in daily self-assessments and write notes about how they feel. The information collected from these assessments is shared with the clinic, allowing individuals to be more involved with their treatment. The Monsenso smartphone app also provides individuals with customised action plans that act as guidelines in case their symptoms appear enabling individuals to take responsibility for their behaviours and actions.


[1] The long-term mental health care for people with severe mental disorders. J.M Caldas de Almeida, H. Killaspy. Prepared under service contract with the Impact Consortium by the European Commission. 2011.

[2] Increasing access to behavioural health care through technology. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration (2013, February).

[3] Directors Blog: SAMHSA and NIMH partner to support early intervention for serious mental illness. P. Hyde and T. Insel. National Institute of Mental Health Blog (2014, June 17)

[4] Evidence based treatment for first episode of psychosis: Components of coordinated specialty care. PHD R. K. Heinssen. RAISE NIMH (2014, April 14).

Why pharma can benefit from mHealth solutions

Why pharma can benefit from mHealth solutions

Pharma can benefit from mHealth solutions by using them in clinical trials, and by offering them to healthcare providers as part of a comprehensive treatment solution.

Meeting the needs of healthcare providers

The healthcare industry is widely adopting digital technologies. But, today’s healthcare providers are extremely busy between seeing patients and filing paperwork, which limits their time online.

Nowadays, more than 80% of HCPs have a desktop/laptop computer and a smartphone, and 72% own a tablet. [1] Mobile assets are rapidly becoming components in the clinical environment.

Pharma can benefit from mHealth solutions since many healthcare providers would like to find new evidence-based medicine to provide better treatment for their patients, but in many cases, they don’t have time.  In fact, according to a survey conducted by Publicis on Sermo, 81% of clinicians want higher quality pharma representatives capable of having serious discussions of multiple therapeutic options. [2]

Pharma can benefit from mHealth solutions by offering  them to healthcare providers, and  help them satisfy their needs – improving health outcomes, information sharing, and staying updated with the latest treatments.  Providing this type of solution will not only facilitate their customers’ jobs, but they will also open new doors and new opportunities to propose comprehensive treatment solutions.

Pharma should reach out to healthcare providers and offer them digital tools, content, and communities that can help them do their jobs more efficiently.

Improving outcomes in clinical trials

Given the challenges faced during clinical trials, it is only natural that pharma turns to mHealth solutions to help them recruit patients, as well as monitoring and measuring their results.

Subjects are much more likely to participate in a study if they have the possibility to raise their concerns or ask any questions 24/7.

Pharma can benefit from mHealth solutions, since these tools can collect even more data in real-time, improve efficiencies in time and costs, shorten timelines, as well as increase patient satisfaction, retention, and future recruitment.

A key element of success when using mHealth solutions for clinical trials is the ease with which mHealth solutions can collect data, and how that information is integrated into the whole clinical database. These data integrations should be done as closely as possible to real-time, making it easy for clinicians to visualise all the patients’ data.

Conducting clinical studies using mobile devices can help collect and monitor behavioural data and vital signs in patients. These solutions can also work as medication reminders and gather patient feedback – all these improve the decision-making process when developing new medicines.

Monsenso can provide Pharma companies with  a customised, white-label mHealth solution for their clients and to use on clinical trials. If you are interested in learning more about this, click here.


[1]. Publicis Healthcare Communications Group. Publicis Touchpoint Solutions, Inc. (2012). What Physicians Want! http://en.calameo.com/read/00018255192e3ec186674?authid=adzLms3ud6Vf
[2] Manhattan Research. Unknown Author. (2013). Taking the pulse 2013. www.manhattanresearch.com
[3] MHealth in Clinical Research. Denise, Myshko. Pharma Voice. (2016, October) http://www.pharmavoice.com/article/2016-10-mhealth/