CSOFT Health Sciences sat down with Dr. Nelson M. Handal, President and Chairman of Clinicom, in our newest podcast episode of Coffee & Conversations to discuss the value of Clinicom’s digital assessment tool in enhancing patient care and eliminating misdiagnoses. To continue the conversation, CSOFT had an extensive interview with Dr. Handal following the podcast.
Around 15 years ago, Dr. Handal recognized that at the core of psychiatric care and treatment, there is a problem – the limited time clinicians have with their patients to carry out accurate assessments and diagnoses. ‘I became really concerned…because we want to learn as much as possible from [our] patients,’ Dr. Handal said. Since then, Dr. Handal set out with a vision to incorporate technology and data into the diagnostics process. By digitizing customizable questionnaires, using AI machine learning technology, Clinicom can assess patients for over 55 mental health conditions. Through Clinicom’s patented technology, clinicians can accurately assess their patients through the information gathered from the patients’ responses to their Clinicom questionnaire.
Dubbing the technology, a “Stigma Eraser”, Dr. Handal explained how with accurate patient data, patients can receive the correct care that they require, leading to lifesaving treatment. In one situation, Dr. Handal recounted in the podcast, one teenage boy completed his Clinicom questionnaire at a clinical visit, revealing shocking results. The boy had described his depression and suicidal thoughts in great detail in his Clinicom responses, indicating the severity of his condition. Commenting on this, Dr. Handal stated that if this patient, ‘didn’t have the opportunity to use Clinicom, we would never have known what was going on. That is the bottom line, really.’
The rate of people living with mental health issues is increasing. Clinicom’s digital assessment technology has been used to commonly diagnose patients with social anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and psychotic disorders. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 10 people around the world suffered from a mental health disorder. In the current crisis, the number of people, particularly young people, living with depression or anxiety has tripled, as Dr. Handal highlighted in the podcast episode. During the episode, Dr. Handal emphasized the devastating numbers of people (typically aged between 15-29 years old) taking their own lives every year – around 800,000 worldwide. ‘So, the statistics are absolutely crazy and … at least in the US, 1 in 5 Americans have problems with mental health but that number is now higher,’ commented Dr. Handal. Furthermore, as Dr. Handal stressed in the episode, global lockdowns and recent restrictions on movement have led to extended periods of loneliness and hopelessness for people worldwide, prompting health experts, including Dr. Handal, to be extremely concerned.
During this past year, people have experienced heightened levels of demotivation. Encompassing feelings of aimlessness and emptiness, ‘languishing’ has been a term coined to describe what many around the world feel as being stuck between ‘flourishing’ and in a state of depression. ‘[A] Lack of interest, lack of motivation, lack of drive and other symptoms associated with energy,’ can be a cause of depression, says Dr. Handal but that, ‘motivation can greatly improve if we eat right, if we exercise, if we are outside, and if we socialize’. Referring to the care of his own patients, Dr. Handal stressed that, ‘We need human connection!’ and, ‘taking the step to activate your connections is the most important thing [you can do for your mental health]’.
Inspired by Dr. Handal and Clinicom’s technology, CSOFT wanted to share some excerpts of the exclusive interview with our readers following the podcast:
CSOFT: What ethical elements did you have to be mindful of when developing Clinicom’s digital assessment tool?
Dr. Handal: We take our ethical responsibilities very seriously. Clinicom users are potentially vulnerable, and we have accounted for such ethical issues as:
- Suicide management
- Aggression management
- Patients’ accessibility to their own data
- Should the Clinicom report information be allowed to change by the patient and the doctor after completed?
- Data sharing
We also have taken regulatory and data security requirements into account:
- Data security
- Data ownership
- US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
- Canadian Personal Information Protection & Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- as well as other applicable data privacy regulations in the US and other countries where we offer CLINICOM.
CSOFT: Have you experienced patients from diverse backgrounds and cultures respond differently to Clinicom’s assessment tool? How important is it to have culturally equivalent questions included in the assessment tool?
Dr. Handal: We have experienced providing care to patients from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The Clinicom questions have to be formulated in a culturally equivalent way. The translations were conducted by providers who understand the cultural sensitivities of the questions.
Patients from different backgrounds have completed Clinicom, including:
- African Americans
- Different income levels
- Different payors (private and public)
CSOFT: Clinicom’s digital assessment tool works to eliminate misdiagnoses. Given the extensive work you have done to develop and improve Clinicom, do you think the data you have collected over time can also help to challenge research and assumptions about people who have symptoms for particular mental health conditions?
Dr. Handal: The data we collect is a great resource for research and it grows with time and number of users. I believe that the information collected over time has the power to significantly influence data analysis and outcome based on providers accepting, rejecting, adding a new diagnosis, or ruling one out. This is the basis of our patent pending machine learning model.
Given that mental health issues have such a global impact, Clinicom is expanding its platform to be available in multiple languages to help patients with their diagnoses around the world. Thank you Dr. Handal for your informative responses – CSOFT is very excited to see what is in store for the future of Clinicom!