Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Apple Watch can monitor mental health

Steve Rogerson
May 22, 2018

The Apple Watch can be used for measuring the state of the wearer’s mental health thanks to an app from Australian company Medibio.
With the Medibio app, Apple Watch users will be able to capture and process specific biometric features that reflect the performance of the body's autonomic nervous system (ANS) to create an objective view of their mental health.
Data are collected using Apple's heart rate monitoring technology during a session similar to an Apple Watch workout session. Data collected during the session are run through the Medibio app typically over a 24-hour period. That information then gets stored in Apple HealthKit and Medibio processes those data through a series of algorithms.
The correlation of ANS biometrics and mental health has been the focus of the company for more than 20 years. Especially while sleeping, our bodies reflect our mental state through the performance of the autonomic nervous system. Medibio's technology detects dysfunction within the areas of the body regulated by the ANS and, through proprietary data processing and algorithms, the technology correlates these anomalies to different mental health conditions.
The technology also has the ability to annotate sleep and awake cycles through Apple Watch and show users up to ten of their most recent scan results.
"The problem with psychiatry is that it is the one discipline in medicine that has minimal quantitative data as part of diagnostic and therapeutic regime," said Franklyn Prendergast, Medibio non-executive board member. "The reliance on subjective judgment is a serious deficiency."
The ability to measure mental health objectively could change the landscape of the planet's biggest healthcare concern. Nearly one in four people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. Mental health also has a history of stigma in which society views mental health issues as character flaws.
"The advent of objectively measurable mental health suddenly creates an obligation to make measurement of mental health available to everyone," said Jack Cosentino, CEO of Medibio. "It is not just our company mission, but it is our obligation to society and to the world at large to make our technology accessible to people everywhere."
The technology holds the promise of demonstrating the effectiveness of prescription drugs aimed at helping to manage depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. The company's product development plans include a clinical product that gives care providers the ability to see how their patients are responding to care plans. The product can also let care providers screen patients, aid diagnosis, and monitor, manage and risk stratify patients. In addition, the product could put the power of self-management into the hands of people around the world, changing consumer expectations of mental health and wellness apps.
"As our nation struggles to understand and reverse skyrocketing overdose and suicide rates, the stakes could not be higher," said Patrick Kennedy, former US congressman and non-executive Medibio board member. "We must transition from attempting to diagnose and treat mental health conditions in stage four to proactive, objective, data-informed approaches that incorporate mind and body. Integrated care is no longer just a goal, it is a necessity."
While it's possible that Medibio's discovery will someday save a life, for now it is designed to help those struggling to know that they are not alone in their journey. The technology puts the power of mental health management into the hands of the patient helping to move cost out of the healthcare system.
"Mental health is something people have always had to figure out on their own," said Michael Phelps, Medibio non-executive board member. "To be able to see what's going on in my body with Medibio's technology means we have something here to help people get through tough times. And I believe that. It's helped me."
The app is available in the Apple App Store for Apple Watch series one, two and three. Future releases will also support Garmin and Fitbit devices.
Medibio was founded in Australia, with offices in Melbourne and Perth, and US offices in Minneapolis.