Privacy in Mental Health Apps: Dr. Nick Allen Interviewed for Statnews

This article is one of many in the Digital Health era that asks, how does a person benefit from their smartphone data being collected by mental health apps? It’s important that privacy is at the center of digital mental health solutions.

As stated in the article,


“Phone apps hold enormous promise for mental health research and treatment, and could even prevent acute episodes of psychosis or suicide attempts. They’re always with the patient, unobtrusively monitoring sleep patterns, movements, location, and social interactions, providing clinicians insight into a person’s life that a monthly appointment can’t. But the question lingers whether patients using these apps are aware of just how much information they’re handing over, and how it’s being used.”

How Smartphone Users Feel: the Data

It’s clear why many smartphone users feel apprehensive about their data being collected, as a study published in JAMA Network Open in April 2019 revealed that 81% of the 36 top-rated mental health apps sent data to Google and Facebook for analytics or advertising purposes, with only 59% of those apps revealed this in their privacy policy. These statistics are unacceptable, and counterintuitive to creating a product that improves the mental health and wellbeing of one’s clients.

In this article, our CEO Dr. Nick Allen’s work at the Center for Digital Mental Health is the example for how data can be reclaimed by research participants and mental health patients, in improving their own wellness while providing objective insights to their mental health practitioner. At Ksana Health, our clearly stated Privacy Policy and daily practice of data security ensures our users feel safe using our products. In addition, our transparency and research-backed products show how much of a benefit these apps can potentially provide to individuals while advancing the capabilities of behavioral health research.

Privacy in Mental Health: the Research

Dr. Allen shared the research he was conducting for one of the most extensive mobile phone studies in teenagers who are at risk for suicide. The trial collected GPS data, activity levels, call and text metadata, audio diaries, text conversations, social media posts, and even analyzed facial expressions in selfies. The goal was to see whether these digital signals could predict an imminent suicide threat so clinicians or emergency responders can intervene in time. Of the importance of this research, he said, “the benefit of early detection and prevention is really profound. I mean, you could be saving a life potentially.”

This research laid the foundation for Ksana Health and our wellness products, rooted in the mission of preventing mental health crises, putting patient and research participant data back into the hands of those that need it, in order to improve their mental health and wellbeing – without compromising privacy.

Click here to read the full article!

Craig DeLarge

30 September 2019

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