February 29, 2024

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New Zealand Trials Mental Health App

Studies show that 80% of people with anxiety disorders, amounting to 67.2 million people, receive no treatment. Now, reports say that a clinical trial involving the University of Otago, Christchurch, researchers and a South Island tech company in New Zealand intends to take the growing mental health issue head-on.

The trial will use a smartphone app called “oVRcome” developed to treat patients with phobias and anxiety. The research team will initially be looking at mental issues relating to social anxiety, fear of heights, flying, needles, dogs or spiders. The app is paired with a headset to immerse participants in virtual environments to help treat their phobia.

The oVRcome system draws on principles of exposure therapy, a proven and effective form of treatment, which removes the need to create real-life experiences and scenarios. Exposure therapy is a treatment approach where people face their feared situations, with the guidance of a therapist. It is one form of treatment that can be used to reduce excessive anxiety symptoms, such as those presented by someone with social anxiety.

With the virtual reality headset, what you can see, or experience, is a range of situations that can bring about a range of emotions. It might present the patient with a serene beach scene, or a splendid mountain view. But in the instance of exposure therapy, it is utilised to gradually expose patients to the things they fear the most. As such, exposure regarding social anxiety might involve a situation that someone might avoid due to a fear of being judged or embarrassed, like delivering a presentation to a group of people. Over time, these exposures will become easier to manage and experience, this is because the goal of entering such a virtual, social situation is to assist sufferers in recognising specific triggers, facilitating learning that reduces their fear-based beliefs and even an opportunity to practice coping strategies and techniques.

Virtual reality exposure therapy forming the basis for treatment can yield very positives results, as researchers have found recently.

In a meta-analysis of research conducted to ascertain the effectiveness of virtual reality exposure therapy in October last year, it was found that it is an effective approach to treating individuals with social anxiety. This conclusion was drawn on the basis that the data was showing a decline in social anxiety symptoms. So, using emerging digital technology to support the treatment of anxiety disorders is a possible pathway well worth exploring. In particular, the gradual easing into social experiences through virtual reality and guided cognitive behavioural therapy is a win for those with social anxiety. The control factor which the technology offers cannot be underestimated as a crucial element in the success of the approach.

The tech developer was inspired to develop oVRcome after becoming increasingly alarmed by mental health statistics. Recognising that access to mental services was a key issue, they began working with a team of psychologists to develop an accessible smartphone-based tool to help.

It is estimated that 80% of anxiety sufferers do not seek treatment because of certain barriers that include cost, location of the patient, the stigma of going to a psychologist and the lack of trained psychologists. Now, COVID-19 has accelerated the comfort with remote healthcare. This presents an opportunity to address those mental health statistics and provide more accessible support to those in need, said the tech developer.

While there is an increasing number of mental health apps available, many have not undergone clinical trials. So, the tech developer is looking forward to work with the experienced team at the University of Otago and exploring the true potential of the app to make treatment more accessible and affordable for more people.

The Senior Lecturer of the Department of Psychological Medicine said that this builds on their research into talking treatments for mental distress and they hope to see this use of technology can increase access to effective treatments for people across New Zealand.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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