This Month’s Expert: John Luo, M.D., on Computer Technology and Psychiatry

What We Know Can Be Done With Technology

It must have been the first day that I hit the floor as a mental health technician that I began to have revelations about the current state of psychiatric medicine. I was hired on to a crew (with 10 other technicians) and hired under the title of a “mental health technician.”

I had devoted my life to studying psychology the last few years  and for the reason that I had quit drinking on my own and with help from support groups. I returned to school in this good health. I’d quit drinking coffee and dark liquids,  became a vegan and quit smoking all within a span of about two years. I knew that I had something to offer the people from whom I’d worked hard to get away.

I knew about the life changing stuff and I saw an infinite future in medicine.

After the introductory studies in psychology, [we] began to move from the science of addiction, and onward to psychopathology and heuristics relevant to mental health. Having only an associate degree in psychology – the psychiatric hospital looked like a dream come true, at least here, early in my career.

It was during my third year working on a bachelor’s degree that I really began to find confusion when thinking about the current state of health care in the facility where I worked.

As a technician, I took vital signs from patients (certain patients) daily and I would also work with nurses, psychologists, and other clinicians regarding the current state of health and the current relevance of the patient’s treatment plan.

At this same time, I was writing and applying to the University of Utah to be accepted into their END program – the Electro-neurodiagnostic program that trained individuals to become a medically recognized and certified EEG technician.

After a few months of building my case with the program based out of the U of U hospital, I was denied from the EEG program. I based my case of being accepted into the program on the concept that the EEG has been thought of now within the recent past, to be a neurodiagnostic tool capable of being used with psychiatric disorders and other neurological disorders separating these disorders from epilepsy.

The program managers (widely respected clinicians) claimed that essentially using the EEG for neuro diagnostics for psychiatric disorders is not something that the institution does at this point.

I began to experiment with available technologies and I was becoming more familiar with technologies on the market that measured vital signs, heart rate and blood pressure.  I began to use more and more devices that claimed to have some sort of medical value.

In my last year studying psychology as an undergraduate, I was introduced to the standards of clinical operation, where for a device, test, assessment or tool to be of clinical significance, the reliability must be within a certain range – a significantly high range.

So, with manually taking vital signs every day on high acuity patients, and working with wireless medical technology on my downtime as a hobby, it became more and more confusing to me, as to why such a widely recognized, if not famous medical facility, was operating with near to no technology.

The patients had no more technology than that of a mental health evaluation (if they were lucky) and a technician to take their vital signs once a day (if they were lucky and of high acuity).

Some Questions to Think About

Why wasn’t the staff washed by the dust collector and sprayed with a zero-smell deodorant before entry into the unit as is done in high-tech computer manufacturing facilities (which would assist with the patients suffering from extreme PTSD and abnormal cases of asthma)?

Why weren’t the patients wearing a health band to measure their health data throughout the entire day and why weren’t the patient’s sleep phases being recorded and monitored at night?

Why weren’t the patients having their vital signs checked as has been found useful in biofeedback treatments? Why weren’t the patients’ data being calculated? Why weren’t the patients getting EEGs to identify neurological changes or changes in functional connectivity, to monitor rehabilitation or to testify for degradation?

Why didn’t the patients have access to a dictionary of alternative treatments, and why didn’t the patients have any of the same technology that the technicians wore around their wrist every day?

I began to think that the institution was putting more money into parking lots and renovating/ rebuilding office space than they were caring for the health and future of the patients that were involuntary at the institution.

I included this idea to the END program: “You know I want to do something for my patients, more than just house them. I want to monitor them with EEG technology.” This was a losing approach I found for the program. My application, my essay on deserving a seat, and my interview together assisted in the university’s decision to deny me a seat.

I moved the next year to do undergraduate research at the institution in which I studied. I quit my job at the psychiatric hospital where I had so many unforgettable experiences, and I did so in the name of putting health bands on every patient that is held in a medical facility.

If we are making involuntary patients wear GPS monitoring devices and identification badges and having these devices locked onto their wrist or ankle, doesn’t it befit that these patients too should be wearing high tech health devices – that cost no more than the identification bracelets?

Are we designing our institutions to deny evidence-based practice by denying to accept the genuine validity and reliability of modern health devices? I moved from blaming the institutions to attempting to get these technologies to where they need to be.

This dilemma seems to be a conundrum that is not easily solved and/or something that will come up again and again, while we evolve as treatment providers and while we grow as a country.

One of the ideas that I want to leave here is a statistic that was published by the Global Shapers Annual Survey in 2016, the data that fructified this statistic was gathered on behalf of investigating young people’s views on the future of the world.

From the 20,079 people that completed the survey, 86 percent claimed that “in my opinion, technology is creating jobs,” where 14 percent reported that “technology is destroying jobs” (Global Shapers Annual Survey, 2016).

Should we be making sure that with creating good jobs and state of the art technologies, that we are also utilizing the research and resources that we have to best accommodate our patients according to what is technologically possible?

If we know where the technology brings streamline advancement, shouldn’t we be connecting these resources? Are not we obliged to design the future futuristically? What we know can be done with technology is very important, but what is more important is what we will know tomorrow.


Global Shapers Annual Survey. (2016). World economic forum. Global Shapers Annual Survey 2016. Retrieved June 16, 2019 from .

What We Know Can Be Done With Technology


APA Reference
Stotler, J. (2019). What We Know Can Be Done With Technology. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Sep 2019
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Sep 2019
Published on All rights reserved.