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How Your Smartphone Could Help Diagnose Depression

Chris Wood Chris Wood | April 15, 2019

How Your Smartphone Could Help Diagnose Depression

Did you know that people suffering from depression move their heads less often?

Thanks to new smartphone apps, we might soon have a way to detect mental disorders. Using facial and acoustic analysis, researchers have found 11 biomarkers that, under certain circumstances, could give physicians clues to the mental condition of their patients:

  • Depressed patients have shorter smiles (though not always less frequent ones).
  • Depressed patients move their heads less often.
  • Depressed patients look down more.
  • Depressed patients don’t enunciate vowels as much as people without depression.
  • Suicidal patients use more first-person pronouns.
  • Suicidal patients often have a breathy voice.
  • Men with PTSD frown more.
  • Men with PTSD often show disgust in their facial expressions.
  • Women with PTSD are the opposite: they show fewer negative facial expressions.
  • Patients with a specific form of schizophrenia look away more often and for longer than those with another form.
  • These schizophrenic patients also use fewer space-and-time words like “recently,” “nearby,” or “tomorrow.”

Disclaimer: If you’re shocked about these sweeping categorizations, don’t be.

Of course, not everyone who displays any of these biomarkers is mentally ill. You can be a mumbler without being depressed, or an introvert who isn’t very good at keeping eye contact without being schizophrenic.

In fact, these biomarkers were found in clinical trials with groups of patients—for example, teenagers with suspected suicidal tendencies.

The secret: artificial intelligence that can sense and interpret people’s facial expressions and behaviors.

This could be a huge boon in a sector of healthcare where diagnoses often depend on patients’ self-reported symptoms, with no objectively measurable indicators.

However, it’ll be a few years before this particular app will come onto the market. One of the kinks that still need to be smoothed out is concerns about privacy.

I’m sure they’ll figure out a way, though. I’m extremely bullish on this kind of new research, which is part of the booming healthcare trend that I call “Everywhere Care.”

Healthcare is getting more and more mobile and convenient for the patient... and that saves a lot of money too. In a world where healthcare spending is slowly drowning the economies of developed countries, we desperately need solutions like these.

And they are getting more ubiquitous now.

You’ve probably already gotten a brochure from your health insurer offering you online “doctor visits” that in less severe cases can replace a face-to-face appointment.

I recently got such a leaflet in the mail, which claimed that “95% of members who use [the online feature] rate their experience at 4 out of 5 stars or higher!”

All you need to do is log into your “Virtual Doc” account and book some face time with urgent-care professionals, psychiatrists, behavioral therapists, diet and nutrition specialists, and lactation consultants.

We call this “telehealth.”

George Friedman

Will the euro still exist by 2030?

George Friedman gives you the answer—LIVE with your SIC Virtual Pass!


In the latest Healthy Returns issue, I explore a healthcare giant that is the market leader in Everywhere Care and cleverly combines “retail clinics” with telehealth.

Retail clinics are brick-and-mortar facilities where you can not only buy prescription drugs, supplements, and over-the-counter remedies, but where you can also go to get diagnosed and/or treated... for very little money.

I do like the brick-and-mortar aspect because it still preserves the human component while offering all the conveniences of the virtual docs.

You see, these clinics operate out of retail stores. They offer extended weekend and evening hours, walk-in availability, and short wait times. They offer low, fixed, transparent pricing, and many take insurance.

Plus, many are now expanding their services to include chronic disease management.

Deloitte reports retail clinics could save the healthcare system $2.2 billion a year if patients use these facilities when it’s appropriate instead of doctor’s offices, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms. An additional $1.2 billion could be saved if nurse practitioners provided care and prescribed medications independently in retail clinics.

The company I’m talking about is already a giant in the healthcare sector. Its 1,100 retail clinics in 33 US states provide a remarkable variety of services—from treatment of different health conditions, to screening for asthma, diabetes, and Hep C, to vaccinations and other preventive care.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that the quality of the healthcare at this company’s retail clinics is at least as good as that in other outpatient settings and ERs... and 40–80% less expensive to boot.

This is a truly disruptive new system that could change the face of healthcare forever. The company plans to open another 400 retail clinics in the near term... and the ultimate goal is that at least half of all Americans will live within 10–15 miles from one.

But the company is not just banking on the in-person visit. Last August, it announced a telehealth service that patients with minor illnesses and injuries, and skin conditions can use to access healthcare services 24/7 from their mobile device. A video consultation costs just $59, and most insurance is accepted.

But that’s not all.

The company’s vision for the future is much bigger. It envisions its retail clinics to become central hubs for healthcare and wellness, with medical equipment, exam and consultation rooms, and wellness studios that offer free yoga classes.

In one word: a one-stop shop for all your healthcare needs.

You can read all about this company in the current issue of Healthy Returns, including my buy recommendation and target price. I suggest you read it for yourself. A month-by-month subscription is only $9.95, and you can cancel at any time.

Chris Wood,
Editor, A Rich Life

Please note that the companies Chris mentions in A Rich Life are just meant to give you some ideas for your own research... not official investment recommendations. There’s no A Rich Life portfolio, and Chris doesn’t keep track of these companies.

Chris does provide actual stock picks—thoroughly researched and vetted, with entry and target prices, full company analysis, the whole nine yards—in his investment newsletter, Healthy ReturnsClick here to subscribe to Healthy Returns at a low monthly rate.

Chris Wood
Article Author

Chris Wood

Chris Wood heads our financial research team at Health & Wealth Research. He is also chief investment officer at RiskHedge, a premier research firm focused on profiting from disruptive trends. An accomplished stock picker, he booked 100%+ gains on 7 different stocks in 2017 alone.

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