Telehealth tool could improve behavioral healthcare for soldiers

A new tool designed to supplement online mental health counseling will help improve telehealth efforts to service members and veterans.

The tool--created by Charlestown, Mass.-based Cogito Corp.--consists of "social signs processing" technology that identifies signs of psychological stress in patients' speech patterns, social behavior and other cues, according to company officials.

Called "Honest Signals," the system then provides alerts to clinicians through a dashboard that's displayed throughout the telehealth visit, company officials explain. CEO Joshua Feast describes the technology as "an objective, secure tool to supplement [clinicians'] skills and intuition in assessing patients' behavioral health status, engagement and rapport during each interaction."

Cogito is working under a contract with the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The new sensing tool may have come at just the right time, as telehealth use among servicemembers and veterans is likely to take off, given the Department of Veterans Affairs' recent proposal to waive co-pays for such services.

Last fall, the VA handed a major contract to American Well to test out its online physician video-conferencing services for veterans and their physicians. The program is evaluating patients and clinicians using two-way video or text chat or phone calls, plus online patient records being available to clinicians during the interaction--to see if it provides adequate support for VA patients, particularly in behavioral health. 

We'll be interested to see whether the Cogito initiative ends up dovetailing somehow with the American Well test, which is ongoing through 2013.

To learn more:
- read the Cogito announcement
- here's the American Well announcement from November

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