Better technology doesn’t always mean better mental health.
We already know about the drawbacks of social media. Alarming statistics have emerged in the past decade.
The Royal Society for Public Health UK found that four out of five of the main social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat) had a net negative effect on anxiety levels.
In addition, a significant association has been found between social media use and depression amongst young American adults1.
But how can tech and software help mental wellbeing, rather than harm?
Let’s take a look at 3 ways mental health services can embrace digital healthcare to improve the support available for people experiencing anxiety and depression.
More potential for engagement
By 2025, the global digital health market is forecast to expand by close to six times its current size, reaching an eye-watering 504.4 billion U.S dollars2.
Such a large growth in market size also brings potential to increase engagement with patients.
A frequent complaint amongst healthcare practitioners is the number of missed appointments. No wonder — missed appointments waste precious time and resources.
In fact, the U.S. healthcare system loses $150 billion per year as a result of missed appointments3.
And in the UK, patients no-show 1 in every 20 NHS appointments booked with their GP, at a total cost of more than £216million4.
But for people with anxiety and depression, attending an appointment isn’t always easy.
Such patient groups often face unique challenges when having to travel and meet professionals face-to-face. These can include:
- Lack of energy/motivation to attend appointments
- Stress of having to cope with busy clinic waiting rooms
- Financial pressures of having to travel to treatment bases
Mental health services can aid engagement by using digital healthcare to offer more flexibility.
Secure online appointment software is emerging in the market, so remote support is becoming more viable by the year.
Appointments can now be arranged via desktop computer, laptop, iPad, or smartphone. As a result, patients will have many more options to choose from if their energy’s low or they can’t afford to travel.
Digital healthcare solutions can reduce or even remove a range of the common causes of missed appointments.
Everybody involved can win here. Patients will be able to access more dynamic care pathways, while practitioners can save time and hit appointment targets.
Easier liaison with a patient’s support team
Individuals with high mental health needs, such as severe anxiety and depression, may need support from multiple healthcare practitioners.
This is because different practitioner skill-sets can be required to fulfil a holistic approach to treating mental health issues.
For example, an individual with a high level of generalized anxiety and an eating disorder may struggle to leave their home.
If the individual is in need of treatment input from both a psychologist and a nutritionist, then digital healthcare solutions can provide a better integration of care.
Joint video calls can be arranged with the patient’s consent. The psychologist and nutritionist can then be on the line at the same time to liaise with the patient.
More comprehensive care and more inclusive therapy environments are both worth pursuing for the benefit of people with mental health needs.
‘‘Live’’ behavioral activation
Behavioral activation (BA) is renowned as a personal and customizable therapy for people with depression5.
BA’s focus is on assisting patients to schedule goals and carry out rewarding activities, the kind that are likely to boost the patient’s mood.
With the availability of remote, virtual appointments, therapists can ‘’meet’’ with the patient in the patient’s own home.
In what is likely to be a more comfortable environment for the patient, the therapist can guide the patient to try out ‘‘live’’ activities during the session.
This could include small yet potentially rewarding tasks such as cleaning their room or planning a meal, which aren’t possible to do live in a therapy clinic.
We know too much tech can negatively impact mental health. However, digital healthcare advancements could be a beacon of hope for people with anxiety and depression.
- Less missed appointments.
- Smoother team-working amongst practitioners.
- ‘‘Live’’ therapies with the patient in their own home.
Benefits such as these would help patients and practitioners alike.
Digital healthcare needs to become mainstream reality now, not in 20 years’ time. How quickly can health services implement what the tech is promising?
Freelance Health Copywriter
1. “Association between Social Media Use and Depression ….” 19 Jan. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4853817/. Accessed 28 May. 2020.
2. “Global digital health market forecast 2018 and 2025 | Statista.” 12 May. 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1092869/global-digital-health-market-size-forecast/. Accessed 28 May. 2020.
3. “Missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system $150B ….” 26 Feb. 2019, https://aquinahealth.com/2019/02/26/missed-appointments-cost-u-s-healthcare-system-150b-year/. Accessed 29 May. 2020.
4. “NHS England » Missed GP appointments costing NHS millions.” 2 Jan. 2019, https://www.england.nhs.uk/2019/01/missed-gp-appointments-costing-nhs-millions/. Accessed 29 May. 2020.
5. “Behavioural activation for depression; an update of meta ….” 17 Jun. 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24936656. Accessed 28 May. 2020.