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The future of psychology must go through technology

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Elsevier is a new collaborator of the cluster for Patient Empowerment, a multi-actor initiative launched in 2016 by ImpactHub Madrid. This project has the participation of different organizations and institutions interested in contributing to the innovation and transformation of the health system. In this alliance, which also has the support of Philips and Takeda, Elsevier adds his experience and leadership in the debate on digital transformation (Elsevier dialogues) and the knowledge derived from the development of his clinical solutions , which have, among other goals, to consolidate that objective of healthy prevention in society and, above all, the empowerment of the patient that prays in this program. This cluster is nourished by bimonthly actions. The most recent one took place on February 8 and focused on ‘technology and psychology: how can they combine to help us change our behavior towards healthier habits?

Technology and psychology

Each of these meetings is written under the same pattern: a presentation of experts and, after their presentations, a group dynamic among professionals to generate synergies, draw ideas and draw conclusions and proposals for the future. For this occasion, the cluster presented two great unknowns: how can we incorporate the knowledge of psychology into technology and vice versa to generate healthier living habits? Can big data and artificial intelligence (AI) help us in this company? To clear both, ImapctHub recruited Manuel Armayones, a doctor of psychology, specializing in epatients, ehealth, technological persuasion, and behaviour change. He is currently director of development eHealth Center of the UOC at Universitat Oberta de Cataluña (UOC); Nacho De Ramón, graduate in Psychology and specialized in children’s Neuropsychology. Complete your academic experience with an Executive MBA. In 2014, he co-founded the startup Synchrolab, a tool that measures and trains users ‘ cognitive abilities; and Juan García Prieto, an electronic engineer. After 5 years of experience in the industry, he is doing a doctorate in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM).

Changing habits

Both health systems and citizens know that our health is largely determined by our eating habits, physical activity and Customs. However, we do not focus on it. In recent years there has been an explosion of technological health solutions aimed at measuring real-time health indicators, but many of them are not having the expected success. For Manuel Armayones, “they don’t take into account what motivates each of us.” This doctor of psychology recalls the three basic pillars to consolidate these new ways of life that favor our health, as pointed out by the WHO itself.:

  • Good governance: healthy and manageable choices
  • Physical environment that favors it
  • Health knowledge: patient empowerment

Changing a behavior and establishing a new habit is very difficult,” Armayanes says, “it must be cheap, it must take little time and we can automate it quickly; that’s how we humans are.” Until a few years ago psychology was taking into account a number of very determined aspects to meet this challenge, limited by its own resources: “the emergence of technology is already helping to broaden the perspective and to improve and measure the introduction of new healthier habits (decision-maker)

Nacho De Ramón is clear that”the future of psychology must inevitably pass through the technology and empowerment of the patient; like many other fields of Health.” The barriers to accelerating this process are placed in psychologists themselves, “we come from the branch of philosophy and it is hard for us to believe that technology can be an ally.” As he emphasized during his presentation, this transformation should not be delayed much longer in time, not only by talking about healthy habits, but above all, as far as mental health is concerned. De Ramón contributed some of the most disturbing figures: annual spending in Spain on mental health amounts to 83 billion euros (8% of GDP) and only 25% of the sick are being treated by professionals. “These figures would drop dramatically if we can overcome the three great barriers facing psychology today: the social stigma of the patient; the communication and resources.

Artificial intelligence and big data

Juan García Prieto assumed the responsibility of ” eliminating the stigma to the concept of artificial intelligence (AI)”, which he considers to be viewed by society with some suspicion and they fail to recognize the transcendental role that it already plays in our lives and, in the present case, in psychology. To begin with, García Prieto stressed that ” the IA does not intend machines to act like humans. All human advances have gone hand in hand with great scientific advances. This is one more. When we talk about AI we do it of every algorithm that values at the same time many dimensions at the same time.” Another support with a lot of consistency in this new evolutionary leap would be in big data: “we have developed bio-statistics; testing the behavior of 1,000 individuals we can draw conclusions about human habits and behaviors, applicable to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s… never in the history of humanity have we had such quantity, quality and dimensionality of data. Biological mathematics inspired by a margin of error less than human beings

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