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New app may be able to alert doctor to health problem before patient realizes

by: Elizabeth Hopkins Updated:

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What if a text message, or even that call you ignored could help diagnose how you're feeling and even identify potential mental illness? A Boston company is working on an app for that. 
 
"For me the most exciting aspect of the technology is what it brings to the table for me, as a clinician," said Dr. Thilo Deckersbach. 
 
 
Mental health patients often keep diaries to help doctors track their symptoms and care, but it can be unreliable. The Boston company Cogito is using the diary that writes itself, your phone, to help figure out whether patients are physically or emotionally isolating themselves. 
 
Cell phones track where users go, frequency of texts and calls and when users sleep and wake. It's information called trace data and the Cogito app mines that information for doctors use. 
 
"And there's also a neat little feature which is quite fun, where you can press a button and leave sort of a short audio diary, and it will analyze your voice inflection, and give you feedback on your mood," said Cogito. 
 
 
Cogito has teamed up with Mass General Hospital to test the app, looking for 1,000 mental healthcare patients to download it. 
 
"I can be more effective, I can be more targeted," said Deckersbach. 
 
Cogito CEO Joshua Feast said they've also partnered with Veteran's Affairs.
 
"The V.A. is experimenting with the app to see if they can understand the behavior markers of suicide before something happens to somebody," said Feast. 
 
 
Feast believes the app may be able to alert a patient and a doctor to a problem, before either even knows there is one.
 
This study will go on for two years. To participate, you must have been diagnosed with a mood disorder and sign up at moodnetwork.org