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  • Writer's pictureSoumya Choudhary

ADHD through the lens of Digital Phenotyping

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Let me ask you a question "Do you think that for ADHD-a condition which is widespread- a diagnosis would be easily and accurately available across the USA?". If your answer is YES, then you are incorrect. Currently, a diagnosis of ADHD involves elaborates reports from parents, school teachers, and child observation. Even then, the diagnosis is not 100% accurate. No biomarker, no conclusive test, and no timely diagnosis.

ADHD is a condition of the brain. It has three key attributes: extreme difficulty in sustaining attention, intense hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found out that ADHD affects 6.1 million children in the USA. The survey also revealed that 6 out of 10 children who have ADHD will have at least one other difficulty (e.g anxiety, conduct problems) at the same time.

Since ADHD is a disorder in which symptoms are reflected by a change of behavior, health care experts believe that monitoring certain aspects of a child/youth's life can rule out the possibility of missed or delayed diagnosis. Also, scientific evidence suggests that a failure to diagnose ADHD prevents children and their families from getting the assistance they need to achieve their full potential in academic and psychosocial settings. Thus, having an accurate and early diagnosis of ADHD poses a crucial challenge for the healthcare industry.

Over the past decade, our healthcare system has become more digitized. It has now become possible to monitor our health more closely and on a daily basis. For example, similar to a "fashion statement", smartwatches that can monitor your heart rate and comment on your sleep cycle have become a “health statement”. There are apps that will remind you to stay hydrated, monitor your menstrual cycle, and track your mood. Therefore, based on the rapid changes in the way we regulate our health, the challenges around the diagnosis of ADHD present an opportunity for digital augmentation.

We are not saying this just out of thin air. There is growing evidence that digital technology can be used to diagnose and treat mental illness across all age groups, with the medium now being used by 4 billion people. Yes, you read it right- 4 Billion people in the world use smartphones, with the USA being one of the top three countries in the world with the highest number of smartphone users. Against this backdrop, a new path towards better diagnosis is being laid out by the science of 'Digital phenotyping'. It securely collects data from our devices and analyses it to build a digital picture of our behavior, tracks our usage, and generates digital markers for depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

There are a variety of non-biological risk factors involved that contribute to the development of ADHD in an individual, and one of them is the use of technology. A study found there was a significant association between higher frequency of modern digital media use and subsequent symptoms of ADHD over a 24-month follow-up. In such scenarios, studying the digital behavior of your child can provide significant insights and help seek early interventions and care. If an accessible, accurate, and advanced diagnosis for ADHD is in the future, then digital phenotyping will lead us to it.

What do we do at Behavidence?

Behavidence was founded to help people with the diagnosis, monitoring, and therapy of mental health conditions. Utilizing digital phenotyping and machine learning algorithm we aim to give the app users, caregivers and clinical therapists high accuracy tools to evaluate onset, progression and relapse of mental health conditions together with signals, data-driven insights and technology to improve and enhance therapies and quality of life.

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