Within the last 200 years, there have been major advancements in healthcare technology — from the invention of the stethoscope in 1816 to the discovery of medical X-rays in 1895. Now, technology continues to support progress in healthcare, with a new and much-needed focus on mental health.
Since the 2020 pandemic, anxiety and depression have spiked 25% globally. Depression is the leading cause of worldwide disability, and anxiety is the most common mental health disorder across the globe — affecting nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, with advancements in technology, mental health support is also becoming increasingly accessible. Due to the positive impacts of technology in the health space, many are shifting their careers from healthcare to healthtech, or outright moving industries to support the growing need for tech workers in health.
This article covers three major technology innovations shaping mental health care, the in-demand jobs to support them, and tips for landing a healthcare technology job.
3 Tech innovations shaping mental health
- Wearable devices
When you think of wearable devices, you likely think of a Fitbit to count your steps or a smartwatch to check text messages from your wrist. While smartwatches do encourage a physically healthier lifestyle (smartwatch wearers exercise 1.3 days a week more than non-smartwatch wearers), these devices are also becoming increasingly popular to help treat mental health conditions.
Wearable devices provide physicians and patients with constantly updated data, so users can make real-time changes. The technology works to improve mental health by:
- Encouraging physical activity: Smart devices track exercise, which has huge impacts on mental health, including releasing endorphins, relieving anxiety and depression symptoms, and improving mood.
- Managing stress: Anxiety tends to cause high-stress levels, resulting in a higher heart rate. A smartwatch reacts to these triggers and reminds the wearer to focus on breathing and recenter their thoughts.
- Monitoring sleep patterns: Poor sleep is more than just an inconvenience, it has serious impacts on mental health. Devices like smartwatches, smart pillows, and EEG headbands have smart sensors that monitor and detect subtle physiological changes while you sleep— tracking things like insomnia, headaches, muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, and general sleep patterns.
Jobs in wearable devices
Despite wearable devices being widely popular for mental health care, there’s still room for growth and improvement. As the companies creating these devices strive to get more accurate data, there’s increasing demand for healthcare technology jobs like designers and software engineers.
Since these devices are made to be accessible to everyone, the UI needs to be intuitive and user-friendly — calling for designers to ensure practical use with the end user’s needs in mind. Engineers, on the other hand, work behind the scenes to build and improve the backend of the devices. There’s a wide range of engineering roles for those interested in working at a cutting-edge wearable tech company, from firmware engineers to security engineers.
- Blockchain technology
Say goodbye to fax machines.
Blockchain technology is a “system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system.” When used in a healthcare network, the technology works to share confidential, up-to-date patient records, combat faulty medications, and anticipate conflicts in medications and treatments.
For doctors and other healthcare professionals (many of whom still rely on fax machines and phone calls to communicate) this is a major advancement that has the potential to improve patient care in many ways.
In addition to patient records being available to providers across the patient’s health support network, and fast, more reliable collaboration amongst hospitals, physicians, and pharmacies, the technology also contributes to better treatment. According to a report from The International Journal of Intelligent Networks,
“Smooth, efficient data sharing and delivery across all the prominent network members and healthcare providers contribute to developing economical therapies and sophisticated treatments for many diseases. This will accelerate growth in healthcare in the coming years. The opportunities offered by blockchain technology in the logistics industry have been revealed recently and show the healthcare sector’s advantages.”
Jobs in blockchain technology
Data is a core tenant of blockchain technology. So it’s no surprise data scientists are in high demand as the potential for this technology is unlocked.
Data scientists can take on a wide array of responsibilities working with blockchain technology, including ensuring transactions are secure, data integrity, data analysis, and predictive analysis.
When it comes to healthcare, in particular, data integrity is of utmost importance.
Virtual reality therapy technology
Virtual reality isn’t just for gamers. It also has serious mental health benefits.
Studies have concluded that virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) can become the new standard in treating generalized anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, specific phobias, and social anxiety disorders— to name a few.
Here’s how it works: By using computer graphics, the user’s immersed in a virtual environment with something fear-provoking. To the outside eye, it simply looks like the user is wearing a large headset. But to the person with the VR headset on, they’re surrounded by a fabricated, 3D world. This also provides researchers with opportunities to augment reality if needed.
A major benefit of VR is that it can be accessed from a smartphone — making it extremely accessible (unlike many other mental health treatments). Plus, as technology progresses, the cost of making VR-specific devices, like the Oculus Rift, is lowering.
Jobs in virtual reality therapy
Each person is unique and so are their phobias and mental triggers. Patients need specialized realities and scenarios to treat their mental health conditions — creating a higher demand for software engineers and programmers to develop them.
Not to mention, studies are being conducted to test the possibility of fully automated VR support that doesn’t require interaction from human therapists. This means the technology will need to get increasingly sophisticated, and the industry will need more talent on the tech side to get there.
Tips to find a healthcare technology job
Now, more than ever, the worlds of technology and healthcare are colliding.
If you’re wondering how to find a new career in mental health technology, you’ve come to the right place.
Often, the scariest part of finding a job in a new sector is overcoming the first hurdle in deciding what path to take that speaks to your interests and motivations. Here are four tips for finding that job in mental health care tech:
- Look for jobs that interest you
Finding a job that interests you is half the battle.
There are two things you want to consider when trying to find the right fit: 1. The role itself, 2. The company.
Job sites like Glassdoor and Indeed are great places to start. They’ll help you understand the skills different jobs are looking for and the types of projects you’ll be working on. They’ll also give you a sense of what companies are currently hiring.
Passion for your work is an important part of job satisfaction. Make sure that you’re genuinely interested and aligned with prospective companies and responsibilities.
If you’re not sure where to start with your research, consider looking into some popular roles in the healthtech industry:
Tip: To stay in the loop of any new job openings, set up alerts for roles you’re interested in. This will allow you to take some of the tedious work out of the search.
- Take a course to upskill
Just like mental health care is becoming more accessible, so are healthcare tech jobs. This is in part due to the wide array of courses you can take to advance your knowledge and skills.
Many careers in tech don’t require a traditional career path. There are options to help you learn the skills required for a career shift to healthtech, no matter what your current situation is.
For example, if you’re able to commit full-time, consider immersive learning. If you’re trying to upskill on the side of another full-time job, you may want to try part-time virtual courses. Or, if you’re not ready to commit to a full course, you can even try a free workshop to gauge your interest.
There are so many paths available to continue learning. Don’t let a gap in skills stop you from going for what you want.
We said it once and we’ll say it again. Networking is one of the most important things you can do when looking for a new job, especially when switching careers.
Not only will building a personal connection with someone in the company lead to a greater likelihood of you being considered for the position, but the more you talk to people, the more you’ll know. This includes everything from what skills are needed for various roles, to what companies have good work environments.
You can research and learn all you want, but at the end of the day, if you’re not also talking to people working in the field, you’re missing out on opportunities.
- Keep up with innovations
As you may have gathered, the healthtech industry is evolving quickly. If you’re interested in working in the space, it’s valuable to stay on top of the latest innovations and updates. Try signing up for industry-specific newsletters, subscribing to relevant podcasts, or following thought leaders on Twitter or LinkedIn.
This will demonstrate your interest to prospective employers, and keep you in the loop of what kind of skills you need to advance and what’s in demand.
Breaking into tech
Technology in healthcare continues to advance, thanks to innovative thinkers and talented tech workers— making mental health care more effective and accessible.
Whether it be directly improving the patient experience by overcoming trauma in a virtual space or improving communication between patients and their doctors, a career in the tech industry is a fantastic and unexpected way to help people.
Are you contemplating if the healthtech industry is the right fit for you? Take our “Which Industry Is Right For You” Career Quiz to get more career change clarity.