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Apps

Can mobile technology improve mental health?

18 Aug, 14 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

Mental health, specifically depression, is in the spotlight due to the untimely death of Robin Williams last week. It has sparked much discussion of how mental healthcare could be improved to reduce the likelihood of such tragedies. One area that has the potential to make significant and cost-effective contributions to mental healthcare is technology.

There are already individual cases of technology being put to good use for this specific purpose. Research from Oxford University has shown that text messaging and voice calls can be used to assess mental health status, provide talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and encourage behavioural change.  More advanced devices such as smartphones and tablets deliver similar functionality but in more user-friendly ways. Kindly, for example, is a mobile app that promises to connect users with “a mobile network of compassionate and helpful listeners,” all of whom are anonymous. Users can share or receive short conversation prompts in categories like “addiction/recovery,” “marriage/divorce,” “work/business” and “creativity/inspiration.” The app then makes use of an algorithm to try and match the person who put out the prompt with another who may be a good listener.

The app is still in its early days so it should come as little surprise that it has a relatively small community. To help bolster the number and quality of “listeners” in the app, a number of psychology students have been recruited from the University of Southern California, Vassar College and New York University.

Kindly is certainly not the first or only service trying to provide a space for people who need to talk things out anonymously. 7 Cups of Tea connects users with anonymous “active listeners” online and social networks like Whisper aims to let users share secrets online and engage in private messaging. Whisper has even launched YourVoice, which includes videos from those who have overcome difficulties, and resources for anxiety, bullying, stress, sexual abuse and more. Those who want to share their experiences can submit their own videos for consideration.

Another advantage of multimedia apps is that they can draw on a wide range of sensors and capabilities to produce richer data and more intelligent interventions – e.g. accelerometers, GPS and camera. The Mobilyze! system developed in Chicago uses 38 smartphone sensor values alongside user input to predict psychological status and deliver tailored therapeutic interventions for unipolar depression.

What next?

Mobile mental health already has the capacity to transform the way mental illness is evaluated, monitored and treated, especially in poorer countries where mental health workforces barely exist. It is believed that smartphones will soon be able to deduce our emotional status from our social interactions and tone of voice, while wearable sensors will collect data on a range of factors relevant to mental health, including sleep quality, cardiovascular status and galvanic skin response. Fragmented monitoring and highly-personalised ‘smart’ treatments seem to be the future of mental healthcare; a future made possible by mobile technology.

 

Docphin: a “Bloomberg for Doctors”?

28 Feb, 14 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

This time last year I reviewed Browzine, an app that lets its users browse, sort and save scholarly and peer-reviewed articles on the go. Docphin (the Personalized Health Information Network) is of a similar ilk but with a few key differences; not least its focus on medical journals. Founded by a group of physicians in 2010, Docphin seeks to address the need of medical professionals to keep up-to-date with medical literature in an easily accessible format.  By the end of 2013, it was being used by over 350 institutions in 15 countries.

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What does Facebook Paper mean for publishers?

17 Feb, 14 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

The tech community has been watching closely since Facebook went public in 2012 and began its mission to engage mobile web users. News about younger users abandoning Facebook for the trendier Whats App and Snapchat have fueled many a doomsday warning, but refinements made to the platform’s app over the past year appear to have been successful. According to Facebook, an enormous 945 million out of 1.2 billion monthly active users were using the company’s mobile products by the end of 2013.

Now Facebook wants to offer content serendipity with Paper, a standalone iOS news reader app that delivers human and algorithm-curated full-screen articles and photos in categories you select like Tech, Health, and Pop Culture. Mark Zuckerberg said back in March that he wanted to make Facebook “the best personalized newspaper in the world.” However, it seems that the designers of Paper have come up with something closer to a glossy magazine. more…

How to reach your audience at the right time on multiple networks

6 Feb, 14 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

Twitter generated an entire ecosystem of social networking apps, each striving to make using multiple social networks, posting everywhere and sharing longer posts, easier. Twitter then started cracking down on how third party apps could use its API and most of us moved back to using each network individually. However, there are still a few apps out there that can make social networking easier and more productive. One of the best is Buffer.

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Technology predictions for 2014: wearables, branded content and smartphones everywhere

6 Jan, 14 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

Predicting the future, especially in the dynamic world of Technology, is a risky business. However, it’s that time of year when the great and good cast caution to the wind and suggest key areas to watch in 2014. Here’s a round-up of the main themes to look out for.

Wearables

This is the big one. A survey for software firm Citrix showed that 91% of Americans are excited about gadgets you can wear – be they glasses, wristbands or clothing. 2014 promises smart-watch launches from Google and Apple, as well as a host of other tech accessories.

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Innovative digital campaigns from the festive season

20 Dec, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

TV ads, with their emotive stories and soundtracks, tend to get the most attention in the run-up to Christmas. However, online sales figures show that digital now plays a significant part in seasonal campaigns. And not only in selling, but in promoting and monitoring a campaign too.

YouTube views and social buzz can be a good indicator of how a campaign is doing. With so many consumers now multi-screening (whether stacking or meshing), TV and online are more closely related than ever. The best seasonal advertising campaigns are therefore those that are cross-platform, with online, email marketing and social offering a brand experience that seamlessly blends with and compliments an offline campaign.

Here are some of the best performing and technically advanced campaigns from the past few years.

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Instagram: niche social network or brand platform?

9 Aug, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

Even if you don’t use the online photo-sharing social networking service that is Instagram, you’ve probably encountered an Instagram image somewhere online. Instagram’s calling card is the photo filter; a digital layer that gives the appearance of professional editing to a standard photo.

With the new addition of video capability on Instagram in June, it’s a good time to talk about how companies are using this rapidly growing platform for business purposes. After all, Instagram already has a built-in audience with 130 million monthly active users, liking on average 1 billion photos each day.

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Honourable hackers

11 Jul, 13 | by BMJ Group

BMJ hack day’s winning project  – a smartphone app for patients to collect and compute home blood pressure readings – has triggered lots of social media attention and press coverage in titles such as Medical News Today,  Nursing in Practice, and Mobile World Live.

The two other winners – a revision game for medical students to compete with each other using BMJ OnExamination data, and an Open Access Button that creates a “map of frustration” each time a reader hits a journal article paywall, have also generated a fair degree of attention. This BMJ article explains more.

But what of the other 10 projects? Four more idea were deservedly singled out for “honourable mentions” by BMJ chief executive Tim Brooks and his fellow judges.

hack_day

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Ready for BMJ Hack this weekend?

4 Jul, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

The term ”hacker’ has become synonymous with those who break into computer networks in order to steal or vandalise. The original meaning of the term, however, is starkly different. A hacker is actually somebody who applies ingenuity to create a clever result, called a ‘hack’. This hack accomplishes the desired goal without changing the design of the system it is embedded in. Despite often being at odds with the design of the larger system, a hack is generally quite clever and effective.

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Hack the BMJ on 6th & 7th July

31 May, 13 | by Claire Bower, Digital Comms Manager, @clairebower

Since 1840, BMJ has been a trusted voice in the development of improved healthcare. We are proud of our heritage but also believe in looking forward. Our objective remains to support medical professionals and organisations in continuously improving the delivery of quality healthcare. By sharing our information, analytical tools and technology during an upcoming hack day (6-7 July), BMJ seeks to help healthcare professionals and organisations improve the care they provide.

A crowd of people ready to start Hack the Government 2013 with Rewired State

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