This report by the Global Future Council on Neurotechnologies explores the evolving application of technology in mental healthcare and considers the ethical considerations that surround its use. It finds that:
- Technology is already being widely used in mental healthcare.
- While the efficacy of many of these technologies remains to be confirmed by research, such technologies include a growing number of lower-risk, assistive options that show great promise in being able to provide support at scale. Crisis counselling via text messaging, digital cognitive behavioural therapy and tele-psychiatry are examples with an increasing evidence base to support their wider use.
- The unique power of these technology-enabled services is their scalability and low marginal cost.
- Tech-based care is location-agnostic, with the ability to offer “anytime, anywhere, any way” access via today’s most widely owned technology-based tools (mobile phones and the internet).
- AI and machine learning, and the “big data” sets they offer, are starting to provide new insights into disease subtypes and are helping to optimize screening and care pathways.
- Technological advances in the fields of digital phenotyping, immersive technologies (including extended reality) and digital medicine – among many others – will bring further opportunities in the future.
Given these findings, the Council urges governments, policy-makers, business leaders and practitioners to step up and address the barriers keeping effective treatments from those who need them. Primarily, these barriers are ethical considerations and a lack of better, evidence-based research.