Transforming mental health with digital healthcare in 2022

Mental healthcare services are in demand, but there is a waiting list for this essential service. Telehealth can help more patients, in the new normal

Dr Monika Gratzke is the Global Medical Director for Kry, Europe’s leading digital healthcare company. Here she explores how digital healthcare is shaping the industry in 2022 and outlines how it can be used to level up access to mental health services.

Since the pandemic we have seen the value of digital and data in predicting health outcomes- with tangible economic and social impact across all aspects of our lives.  

Businesses around the globe have had to adapt operationally with new tools, systems and services to meet fluctuating demand, supply and capacity. From last-mile delivery, virtual reality e-commerce to the metaverse, the pace of innovation has never been faster. 

Healthcare is catching up. The need to source better ways to connect with patients and peers, reduce administration and pressure on over burdened systems, along with managing spiralling costs, is driving demand for better technology. 

 

Authorities and healthcare workers can see the long term benefits of telehealth

With almost 20% further growth anticipated between 2021-30, telehealth is evolving to a new frontier: a healthtech ecosystem that connects patients, doctors and systems to drive access, quality and ease of use for all.

A recent study showed that 96% of clinicians are now using telehealth to provide medical care, with 91% planning to continue using technology after the pandemic. And this is having a pan-system impact: governments and authorities around the globe are seeing the benefits that digital, diagnostics and health data can deliver. From improved funding cycles to boosting system resilience; to faster diagnosis and treatments for the individual; through to driving quality health outcomes with personalised and preventative medicine. 

Certainly, the future of healthcare is exciting. But we need to move fast: with close to 1bn people currently diagnosed with a mental health disorder, we’re facing a global crisis. We need to urgently seek new ways of working, treating and diagnosing patients: digital is part of the solution. 

 

Mental health under attack after pandemic

Anxiety, depression and sleep loss have been revealed as some of the most common disorders borne out of the pandemic. Yet many are still not getting the treatment they need. Lengthening waiting times, geographic disparity, as well as insurance costs for mental health are all widening the gap in delivering equitable mental health care. 

In the UK, a recent report revealed that some vulnerable children are waiting up to three years for an appointment, leading to more children in crisis, while others are seen in just under a week.

Against this backdrop more must be done to level up mental health to create fair and equal access for all. 

 

Mobile first ICBT programme

In the last year, Kry has seen an approximate 230% increase in demand for first line mental health appointments compared to two years ago. 

In response, Kry recently launched its own ICBT (Internet Cognitive Based Therapy) programme - an evidence-based mobile first treatment for:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Cognitive behavioural therapy has been a common and effective treatment for decades - delivering this digitally is a great example of how data and digital can be used to provide primary intervention and to scale diagnosis and treatment. 

The mobile-ready ICBT programme is designed to fit seamlessly into patients’ daily lives using a smartphone. Offering a combination of self-learning and professional therapy, patients have control over when they get access to this type of healthcare, and how- with modular self learning tools, guidance and regular check-ins via video and live chat. 

The digital-first approach seems to be working. Average PHQ-9 scores for patients with depression enrolled in the Kry ICBT programme improved from moderately severe to mild in 8-12 weeks. These results are comparable to those seen with traditional face-to-face CBT in a large, independent UK study and it’s creating efficiencies at scale. Psychologists in Sweden using the Kry ICBT programme have also been able to double their capacity to help more patients with an ‘out of the box’ structured and tailored approach for individuals. 

Other digital care innovations - such as software and communication solutions for healthcare professionals - will also be key to building out the patient experience.  In the UK, Mjog by livi, the UK’s largest messaging platform for GPs, has launched a remote monitoring tool that will help GPs identify and monitor people with depression through smartphone messages. Using the system will mean GP practices no longer have to contact every patient they need to monitor by telephone, and manually code their responses. This will save hours of time, and free up staff to call patients who may not have access to a smartphone.

Experience and science already informs us that ICBT is as effective. But the real game changer is that through a device we have in our pockets, digital can supercharge psychologists and healthcare professionals’ efforts to deliver a high quality, yet flexible approach for mental health, with a focus on qualitative and personalised care for patients.

 

Telehealth’s future role in healthcare

Moving forward, digital’s role in healthcare should not be to replace humans with bots, AI and data, but on how technology can give healthcare professionals the best tools to reach more patients and add value to overloaded systems across Europe. 

Innovation and collaboration between healthtech companies and the public sector is critical to strengthening mental health and using population health data to scale future services across the ecosystem. With improved reimbursement, equitable access and opportunities to better connect patients, healthcare professionals and services, digital healthcare can offer exciting new opportunities - provided we can work together to find smarter ways of handling interoperable systems and enabling individuals to take an active role in their treatment. 

 

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