The prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders among children is staggering. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, around 15% of children and young adults ages 3 to 17 suffer from neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The pervasiveness of mental disorders among children is just as stark; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 13% to 20% of children in America experience mental disorders, including anxiety and depression.
And it’s recently gotten worse. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) study found that the number of these mental issues spiked (29% for anxiety and 27% for depression) with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these cases go undiagnosed and untreated. A study by the University of Michigan’s Health Lab found that about half of U.S. children with mental disorders do not get treatment. Inadequate access to mental health care accounts for much of this lack of treatment. But a new digital diagnosis tool could help narrow this gap.
Created by the French technology startup O-Kidia, the Digital Clinic of Neurodevelopmental Disorders for Children and Adolescents is a suite of AI-powered apps that measure biomarkers. Rather than rely on clinical questionnaires to diagnose issues, these markers serve as, in the words of the suite’s makers, “the equivalent of a blood test for mental disorders.” How does O-Kidia work? Children play games on a touchscreen tablet, and the O-Kidia system records video, finger-tracking data, eye and face movements, and sound-recognition data. The system also collects EEG data through a mobile headset.
These digital biomarkers offer a window into behavioral, emotional, and cognitive functioning. O-Kidia says their goal is to “ease the pre-diagnosis, reduce time to care, and improve guidance towards the best therapy… In a world where billions of people are using connected mobile technologies, and more and more health-related data are being collected passively or actively, the opportunities and possibilities for more accurate and efficient health services are therefore now possible.”