Digital Health not just for millennials

New Study shows the number of seniors receiving online therapy is significant & growing; older men outnumber older women accessing online mental health.

While digital health technology adoption has consistently been higher amongst younger generations, a new study ‘The Use of Internet-Enabled Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the Treatment of Depression and Anxiety amongst Older People’ published today in the International Journal of Aging and Society, shows how rapidly increasing levels of internet access amongst over 65s, means that the number of seniors now receiving online therapy (IECBT) is a significant and growing cohort. The study also found that a greater than expected proportion of patients utilizing IECBT are older men, compared to traditional therapy methods.

Speaking about this study, Sarah Bateup Chief Clinical Officer at Ieso Digital Health and co-author of this study said:

“This is an important study as it shows that digital health is not just for millennials and shows how technology is being embraced by the Baby Boomer generation too. Online therapy offers an opportunity to reach older people who are less likely to respond to conventional mental health services as a result of stigma and mobility problems. Seniors are much more vulnerable to mental health problems compared to younger adults,” commented Sarah Bateup.

“In the U.S., it’s estimated that more than twenty percent of people over 55 suffer from a mental disorder, and as many as two-thirds of nursing home residents exhibit mental and behavioral problems. Yet, less than 3 percent of older adults report seeing a mental health professional for their problems,” said Dan Clark, CEO of Ieso Digital Health.

Up to one-in-four primary care patients suffer from depression; yet, primary care doctors identify less than one-third of these patients. (AHRQ) “In the U.S., even if an older patient is diagnosed as suffering from behavioral health issues, there is a chronic shortage of geropsychologists, and people tend to underutilize what few support services there are” said Clark. “The CDC and most recently, the WPA and the Lancet, have called for the industry to embrace new technologies such as IECBT as a way to meet the growing demand for services,” he added.

"IECBT provides older people with an important new way to access mental health care as it removes the perceived stigma by conferring a greater sense of privacy and can be accessed from home which is particularly beneficial if a patient is sick or immobile” said Sarah Bateup. “To date it has been widely accepted that women find it easier to seek help for mental health issues, compared to men, however this study’s findings show another important shift when it comes to gender divides and older men now outnumber older women accessing IECBT,” added Bateup.

IECBT, mirrors face-to-face therapy in that it involves synchronous real-time communication between therapist and patient in therapy sessions. However, communication in IECBT takes place via typing in a secure virtual therapy room. The transcript of each session, conducted in this way, is encrypted and held on a secure site for both therapist and patient to access at any time. In addition to a weekly CBT appointment, therapist and patient can also communicate.

IECBT is also making mental health delivery more effective and cost efficient:

  • With Ieso there is an average reduction in treatment length of 30% [1]
  • Ieso reduces health system costs by over 50% (York Health Economics Consortium 2016)
  • Ieso has made it possible, for the first time ever, to monitor and analyze therapist adherence to clinical protocols
  • Patients can review transcripts in between sessions, aiding therapy
  • Ieso provides on-going training and development programs for therapists in Ieso’s growing network of therapists
  • 75% of therapists have recommended Ieso to other therapists (UK data)

[1] NHS IAPT data November 2017

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