Real Time Communications Featured Article

Crucial Funding Needed for Suicide Help App That Uses WebRTC

February 11, 2016

Real-time communications technologies such as instant messaging and video chat have been a boon to businesses and individuals for some years, but these technologies – which are becoming more advanced and ubiquitous with each month that passes – have much more potential. In some cases today, healthcare professionals are using real-time communications tools to communicate with patients to diagnose simple problems. Recently, New York Presbyterian/Cornell Medical College, Burke Medical Research Institute, and Interlecta Mobile Innovations announced a partnership that aims to make real-time communications technology available to help individuals who are suicidal.


The partnership has developed a state-of-the-art mobile application system called "MindMe" that allows vulnerable individuals to break the cycle of suicidal thought and ideation through a therapist -guided approach that includes instant messaging and real-time voice and video conversations. The developers of MindMe are now looking for funding and has launched a crowdfunding effort to raise $100,000 to further develop the app.

The MindMe App combines traditional evaluation, analysis and treatment strategies with standard therapeutic tools and applications, but adds to the mix digital tools such as patient videos, music and literature libraries. In certain crisis situations, patients can get access to live help via video chat in one-on-one sessions with a trained mental health professional when in-person help is not available. To determine the user’s state of mind, the app initiates a series of questions and, based on the responses, directs the person to the right resources. It also has a built-in “panic button” for immediate help. 

“Unfortunately, the therapist cannot be with the person at times when they sometimes need attention the most," David Putrino, director of telemedicine and virtual rehabilitation at Burke Medical Research Institute and an assistant professor of rehabilitation at Weill Cornell Medical College recently told the Web site Baseline.

The MindMe app is cloud-based and built with the Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) API, which enables browser-to-browser communications by telephone call, video chat or peer-to-peer file sharing without the need the download anything or use internal or external plug-ins. It also accommodates integration with other apps and tools, such as yoga or deep breathing exercise videos, Netflix movies, music and even games. 

“Everything is encrypted and logged, providing the therapist with information that can be used to promote an ongoing, continuous conversation with the user about treatment goals and progress,” wrote Mohney. “Unlike other, more generic apps currently available on the market, MindMe is more personalized to the individual needs and triggers of the end-user, because the approach is therapist-driven.”

The current MindMe app has been developed for the Android platform, but an iPhone version is coming soon, according to its developers. Going forward, the Telepsych Alliance plans to use its experience with launching the MindMe app and develop similar clinically validated applications for other psychiatric conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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