Leshchenko R. V., Kaliberda N. V., Sheveleva A. E.

Oles Honchar Dnipropetrovsk National University


Many major medical and scientific advances occur in association with techno­logy. Cochlear implants, prosthetics and the human genome project have all come about because of investments in materials, electronics and biotechnologies, combined with medical and clinical knowledge. Computers, and indeed the Internet, are listed as some of the greatest inventions of all time, which have transformed medicine, the sciences and society. From the early 21st century, the Internet was seen to be trans­forming medicine, by improving communications between patients and clinicians, providing new devices, and facilitating information dissemination. Interestingly, papers written in the early 2000s in major journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association now seem incredibly conservative in their predictions for Internet-enabled technologies and their use in health care (e.g. Baker et al., 2003).

In medicine, the recent NSW review chaired by Peter Wills (2012) and US-based reports on science highlight biotechnological developments as key drivers of innovation (Macilwain, 2010). However, information and communication technologies are just as likely to be as important as biotechnology, and particularly in population and mental health. More people own mobile phones than computers. In the developing world, mobile phones have overtaken laptops in volume, and provide the major source of communication technology. In Uganda alone, 10 million people, or about 30% of the population, own a mobile phone, a number that grows rapidly every year (Fox, 2011). Some 35% of the American population have ‘apps’ on their smartphones (Purcell et al., 2010) and tablet use is growing at a faster rate than smartphone devices (Online Publishers Association, 2012).

Mental health: qualitative leaps or just quantitative?

Within this context of medicine and technology, two questions have long interested researchers in mental health. The first is the extent to which mental health interventions have been transformed by technology (or what can we now do that we could not before?). The second relates to the extent to which the disciplines of mental health and psychiatry have especially benefitted relative to other disciplines such as medicine (or is technology especially useful in psychiatry and mental health?). In the remainder of this Debate, we address these two issues in turn, highlighting new ways that health professionals and health consumers can do things and how psychiatric and psychological treatment might particularly benefit from these innovations.


Because of space, other activities facilitated by technology cannot be described here. These include: the role of social media in promoting mental health; population-based approaches to understanding aspects of mental health, such as geospatial mapping of suicide clusters; and the great opportunity online dissemination has to improve T2 translation (Woolf et al., 2008). T2 is translation that seeks to improve access, develop higher quality clinical care, and help consumers. The impact of technological developments will become clearer over a very short time. In the meantime, we will continue to see transformations of all aspects of medical and psychological ‘transactions’, new infrastructure to manage interactions between patients / consumers and a broader range of providers, new devices and ‘apps’ which have the potential to extend, make more efficient and add value to mental health care.