Therapists have a tough enough time marketing their practice, and managed care reimbursement rates have remained steady or fallen. But there may soon be more competition to contend with as a result of a computer game developed by researchers in New Zealand.
Called SPARX, the CD-ROM based game is available at sites around New Zealand to help young people deal with depression. In a study, the game was equally effective in treating depression as standard treatments comprised of mainly face-to-face therapy. Benefits include low cost and easy access.
According to the study, published in the British Medical Journal, SPARX was tested at 24 sites that included youth clinics, schools and general medical practices.
Half of the young people at the sites accessed standard treatment for depression through their physician, school counselor or other health care provider, and half used the SPARX game. SPARX was at least as good as the standard treatment, according to ScienceBlog.com.
“Using computer technology that young people are comfortable with is one way of making therapy more accessible, practical, and hopefully more fun,” says Sally Merry, associate professor of psychological medicine at the University of Auckland.
One in five New Zealanders experience depression before their 18th birthday, but 75% are never treated for it.
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Fewer graduating U.S. med school students are going into psychiatry this year. In 2010, 670 graduates opted for psychiatry residency programs, a number that dropped to 640 last year. This year, 616 are headed into the program, according to Psychiatric News.
That’s 3.9% of graduating seniors, the lowest percentage in six years.
There were 1,118 positions offered this year and 1,096 of them were filled. Those not filled by U.S. seniors go to international students, graduates of osteopathic schools and medical school graduates from past years.
In a separate article, Sandra DeJong, chair of the recruitment committee for the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training (AADPRT), blamed several factors for the drop including stigma about mental illness and psychiatry, uncertainty about health care reform and reimbursement issues.
- John Nelander, Contributing Editor