An accurate diagnosis is key to selecting an effective treatment, and diagnostic tools need to be valid and reliable. While many types of medical conditions can be identified with measures like a blood test or imaging scan, mental health clinicians have had to rely heavily on patient narratives or what they can observe during the patient interview to diagnose. Memory, bias and stigma can influence this process and prevent patients from getting the accurate diagnosis and treatment they need, often putting them in a “treat and repeat” process that can last for months or even years before making therapeutic progress.
Draper is developing a clinical support tool called System with Sensors to Evaluate Mental Disorders (SysteMD™) to identify objective, quantitative biomarkers for psychiatric conditions. This approach can augment the mental health clinician’s delivery of care by enhancing precision of diagnosis, selection of treatment and monitoring of therapeutic effectiveness. SysteMD is a combination of wearable sensors and analytical software that builds on Draper’s expertise in system development and Image & Data Analytics.
Since mental health conditions can have physiological correlates, SysteMD records signals such as heart rate, skin sweating, respiration and pupil diameter while patients are exposed to an emotional prompt or stimulus. It collects signal data before, during and after the prompt to enable comparison of changes against the patient’s individual baseline. SysteMD extracts data from the sensors and combines them algorithmically to produce a quantitative endpoint to guide and inform the clinician’s assessment.
No one biomarker makes a diagnosis — SysteMD uses a multimodal approach, finding patterns among different physiological signals to give a comprehensive picture of each patient’s response. These sensors can be used in combination throughout the process of diagnosing, treating and monitoring an individual’s progress. In a published study, SysteMD demonstrated over 90 percent accuracy classifying individuals with PTSD.
SysteMD shows promise for addressing a number of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. In the future, Draper envisions a suite of tailored software algorithms inside a wristwatch or wearable fitness tracker to aid in diagnosis, treatment selection and therapeutic monitoring, enabling more patients to achieve positive outcomes.
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