International Women's Day - Researchers taking on big data to create new mental health solutions

International Women's Day - Researchers taking on big data to create new mental health solutions

Researchers harnessing the power of big data to tackle mental health

  • Research into mental health is just as vital as treatment and care as it enables development of more effective treatments
  • Mental health experts Sarah Bateup and Ana Catarino are undertaking research into mental health using big data

Despite an increase in people accessing treatment, around a third of all people with a mental health problem are unable to access effective treatment. Services can be hard to access, waiting lists are long and even the most effective treatments don’t work for some people. And this is contributing to poor health outcomes.

As chief clinical officer of Ieso Digital Health, Sarah Bateup and her team of 500 therapists deliver evidence-based psychological therapy for a wide range of mental health problems to tens of thousands of individuals across the UK at a time and place of their choosing.

Using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) Ieso’s online therapy is at the forefront of mental health care delivery. “We have results that are on a par with face-to-face therapy,” says Sarah. “We’re very passionate about delivering something that works, that impacts people’s lives in a positive sense and fits in with people’s day to day lives."

Widely recognised as one of the UK’s most accomplished leaders in online therapy. Sarah Bateup and her team are currently researching how technology including big data in mental health can provide answers that could transform lives now and in the future.

“One of the most critical issues in mental health services research is the gap between what is known about effective treatment and what is provided to and experienced by individuals experiencing mental health issues.” says Sarah.

“We all know that online CBT is an effective interevention and the gold standard for treating anxiety and depression and other common mental health issues. Since the introduction of these talking therapies to the NHS via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) programme in 2008, more people now have access than ever before to CBT and other psychologically therapies.”

According to Ana Catarino:

“As the biggest CBT service in the country in terms of the number of therapists, this puts us in the unique position of being able to conduct meaningful research with a large numbers of therapists. We are using this position to answer a number of research questions including; “why are some therapists better than others” Is it better to have two therapy sessions a week rather than one? Are some CBT change mechanisms more effective than others and is it possible to provide enhanced personalised care by profiling patient symptoms rather than using standard diagnostic criteria?”

Sarah Bateup says:

“What is game changing about the work we do is that the method of delivering therapy online through typed conversations means that we have transcripts from every therapy session. We have a unique and vast mental health data set gathered from over 20,000 patients and over 100,000 therapy hours. Most research on the variance in mental health recovery rates in CBT is all done on conjecture. Researchers can’t see what’s happening in the therapy room. Now we have the transcripts and the data that shows what is really happening, which is truly ground-breaking.”

“We are working with key academic opinion leaders to define different clusters of symptoms and therefore identify different types of depression. We can then look at what treatment methods are more effective than others. How many hours of therapy per week is optimal for patient outcomes.”

“Big data shouldn’t be a futuristic add-on to the treatment of mental illnesses – but an intrinsic part of how we understand it and our research is all about progressing this.”

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Published 08 Mar 2018