Covid-19Digital HealthHyper-adoption of Digital Healthcare Solutions in Mental Health Exposes Risks

Barnaby Perks

Barnaby Perks has spent the last 10 years working with state-of-the-art technologies to improve mental health outcomes and increase access to care. He has some of the most extensive experience in creating value from innovative disruption in mental healthcare.  According to Perks:

“The coronavirus crisis has been a greater catalyst for the implementation of telecare, than two decades of many brilliant, but many failed attempts. Overnight, telecare has connected service users with providers in Europe and the United States. For individuals struggling with a mental health illness, this change cannot come sooner. While this transformation is extremely impressive, challenges and shortcomings are being exposed.”

1. We need a new global ambition for mental health.

Mental health is inextricably linked to economic health; the harder the virus affects economies, the greater the impact on mental health. Lower economic activity equals job losses, business failures, higher unemployment. This in turn affects public finances and the ability to fund already stretched healthcare systems. Beyond the negative impact of a traditional economic downturn, COVID-19 presents additional psychological stressors; anxiety, grief, social isolation, PTSD. There is no mental health strategy for the new normal. We urgently need a digital healthcare strategy for mental health to address the magnitude of mental health challenges coming down the tracks.”

2. We need evidence-based solutions now more than ever.

“Many start-ups create the technology first and only consider the content and evidence base afterwards, often due to naivety and sometimes to avoid the fact the evidence-based protocol belongs to the author/researcher that spent years researching and developing it. We need solutions now more than ever before do what they claim to do.  Those solutions that are validated by evidence-based research should rise to the top.”

3. We need to accelerate scalable, innovations.

“As demand for virtual care surges, new tools and platforms that can scale the supply of high-quality treatment are vital. New technology-led interventions have an unparalleled opportunity. However, demonstrating efficacy and value will be essential for continued utilization. Given the criticality of the situation, the rapid deployment of smarter, evidence-based solutions should be prioritized.”

4. Mental health at home should be subject to the same standard of empirical evidence as other interventions.

“In the US Digital health-care appointments are forecast to top 1 billion by the end of 2020 (Forrester research) up sharply from their original forecast of 36 million visits for all of 2020. This is being fuelled not only by surging demand but by governments and insurers changing funding models and easing restrictions around new telehealth services. We need to ensure that new virtual mental healthcare tools are subject to the same standard of empirical evidence as other interventions and service innovations.”

5. Regulatory systems need to keep pace.

“Because the acceleration and adoption of new technologies are happening at an unprecedented rate, regulatory systems need to keep pace. Navigating this should be easier for new technologies and the approval process for new devices and therapies should become less time and resource-intensive. We don’t want it to become the wild west, but no rules are just as bad as too many rules.

About Barnaby Perks, Co-founder & CEO of Oxford VR

Barnaby has spent the last 10 years working with state-of-the-art technologies to improve mental health outcomes and increase access to care. He has some of the most extensive experience in creating value from innovative disruption in mental healthcare, as Co-founder and CEO of Oxford VR, a spin-out from Oxford University.

OVR’s work builds on two decades of ground-breaking clinical research by Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University. Oxford VR is committed to developing evidence-based, cost-effective and scalable solutions using cutting-edge VR technology.   Prior to this Barnaby  spent the previous seven years as Founding CEO of Ieso Digital Health – the UK’s largest provider of online therapy.

During his stewardship at Ieso Digital Health, he built the company from its initial clinical trial into the UK’s leading provider of live online cognitive behavioural therapy, delivering evidence-based mental health therapy services in multiple NHS contracts and also in the US.   

Barnaby has also scaled several companies developing assistive technologies for people with complex special needs. He also spent seven years in global product commercialisation roles at GE’s geospatial asset management software business. Barnaby holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Economics and an MSc in Biomedical Engineering, both from the University of Dundee. 

This post has been sponsored by oxfordvr

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