Advanced technology on the brink of dramatically improving mental healthcare for the first time in thirty years.

Ieso Digital Health published their latest peer-reviewed academic paper last week in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open. This paper explores how patient and service variables such as age, severity of symptoms and waiting times can be used to predict clinical improvement, in more than 2,000 patients receiving treatment for depression or anxiety.

In other words the paper investigates what patient characteristics, such as gender, age, medication, long term physical illnesses and severity of their mental health symptoms, are related to their likelihood of improving after a course of online 1-1 cognitive behavioural therapy. The paper also looked into service variables, such as waiting times and number of treatment sessions, and at how these can impact patients’ outcomes.

The results of the study reveal a variety of factors that are associated with poorer clinical outcomes. Whilst some of these are inherent to the patient and their condition, for example severity of symptoms, others like waiting times can often be managed by the provider. For example, results show that patients waiting longer to be assessed after being referred to the service show poorer clinical outcomes at the end of treatment. This is not the first report showing an association between waiting times and clinical outcomes, highlighting once again the importance of not only improving access to mental healthcare, but also ensuring that patients are seen by a therapist in a timely manner.

Patients in this study waited on average just under 10 days to be assessed by a therapist, from when they were referred to Ieso. On average, mental health patients in England wait over double this amount to be assessed by a service, with a further wait of over 40 days to continue their treatment after the initial assessment. It is essential that research such as this is used to drive changes that can impact patient care. This includes implementing measures aimed at reducing waiting times, but also the development of more effective treatment protocols, tailored to each individual patient.

It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults suffer from a mental health disorder, with mental illness being the primary driver of disability worldwide. We are privileged to be entering a time when innovation and technological advances can be joined with clinical science to generate a transformational change in mental healthcare delivery. This study represents an important milestone in the path towards defeating mental illness, and a world where each patient can receive the right care, at the right time, to achieve the best possible outcome.

Published 27 Sep 2018