IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 27

OPINION

Jennifer Jetter

The Good, the Bad,
and the Aesthetically
Challenged

n the last decade,
the rapid rise of connectivity and the proliferation of Smartphones have resulted in an increased proportion of
human-human interactions being
mediated through digital technology,
rather than being conducted face-toface. Moreover, in many traditional
human-human-human relationships, it is now possible for one
human component to be displaced
by software: for example in banking,
shopping, and education, the interaction between service provider
and the service user (bank manager-account holder, seller-buyer,
teacher-student) has been diminished or dissolved altogether, as
the service provider is supplanted
by digital technology.
The provision of health services
has been similarly affected, and an
increase in eHealth [1] and talk of
Health 4.0 [2] is the consequence.
Many people now use self-diagnosis websites prior to making an
appointment with a professional
and some types of healthcare services are increasingly provided by
remote delivery. In some cases
this can be highly productive: for
example the use of video for general practitioner (GP) appointments

I

can increase access and availability beyond normal working
hours, reduce travel and waiting times, and decrease the
chances of cross-infection in
crowded doctors' offices.
The question addressed
by this ar ticle is: can ment a l hea lth ser v ice s, which
are traditionally provided by
face-to-face human-human
interaction, be similarly and
beneficially revolutionized by
the use of information and
communication technologies?
Like many professions, the
therapy profession already uses
digital technology for much of
the non-therapeutic part of the
counseling service. Given also the
ubiquity and acceptance of computer-mediated communication in so
many other professions and "walks

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2019.2952297
Date of current version: 2 December 2019

DECEMBER 2019

∕

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

ISTOCK/CLARKANDCOMPANY

Providing Online Counseling
and Psychotherapy

of life," and given the reported rise
in mental health issues as a pressing concern for public health [3], is
it inevitable, or even desirable, that

27



IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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