App to detect depression among Covid patients being developed

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

July 13, 2022, 6:52 pm

<p><em>(Anadolu photo)</em></p>

(Anadolu photo)

MANILA – A mobile application (app) is currently being developed to detect and alleviate depression among persons with mild coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

The project, which was funded by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) for PHP11 million, started in February and the app is expected to be completed before the year ends.

"The app has a chatbot which would talk to the patients about their symptoms. The app also includes modules containing guidelines to prevent Covid-19, as well things to do when one contracts the virus," PCHRD project manager Lemuel Lozada told the Philippine News Agency in an interview on Wednesday.

Lozada added that the app also contains other relevant information and advisories, and lists of nearby mental health facilities and the mental hotline of the Department of Health (DOH). Educational materials from the DOH and the World Health Organization can also be found.

"Using the app would help lessen the anxiety and depression among patients with mild Covid-19. They would not need to go to a doctor or schedule an online consultation if they don't experience severe symptoms," said Lozada.

He clarified that while the app would be able to detect hints of depression based on the patient's discussion with the chatbot, it is not intended for diagnosis. "Depression will be reduced since the app was designed to give tips on how to deal with it. The patient will be referred to a doctor if depression worsens," he explained.

While other Covid-19 patients may also be experiencing depression, Lozada said the app is intended for those with mild Covid-19 symptoms because they are usually the ones who don't need hospitalization and maybe self isolating.

Some features of the app, like the hospital list and WHO guidelines, among others, can also be found online. But having all this information compiled in a single mobile app is more convenient, he said.

He also said that guidelines and hospital lists found on the internet may not always be constantly updated.

The app can be downloaded for free once it becomes available to the public, according to Lozada.

The app is being developed through the project, "Design, Development, and Implementation of a Natural Language Processing-enabled Virtual Assistant for Depression and Anxiety among People with Mild Covid-19," led by Francis Sarmiento of the National Telehealth Center, National Institutes of Health. (PNA)