Saturday, December 05, 2015

Harnessing the Digital Revolution: MindTech 2015

Digital technology has the potential to transform mental healthcare, with technological innovations promising to drive efficiencies and improve healthcare outcomes. However, to realise this potential major challenges must be addressed, and on 3 December 2015, the National Institutes for Health Research (NIHR) hosted MindTech 2015, a forum to explore some of these challenges and move the field forward.  Dr Sarah Markham, BRC Patient Representative for the Experimental Medicine and Clinical Trials Cluster, reports.

The MindTech 2015 Symposium, held at the Royal College of Physicians in London, brought together leaders in clinical practice, patient experience, academic research, industry and technology development to showcase emerging technologies and address the grand challenges in technological innovation that face mental healthcare.

MindTech is one of 8 NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives in England, which aims to identify unmet clinical needs in mental health and dementia, to collaborate on developing and testing a range of new technologies, and to provide advice and knowledge exchange to help increase their adoption.

They are currently focussing on technologies for dementia, mood disorders (such as depression and anxiety), neurodevelopmental disorders (such as Tourette Syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and young people and paediatrics. The MindTech team have a range of clinical and technical expertise; they also have an active Involvement Team and wider network of service users and representatives from patient organisations.

The day began with opening remarks from Professor Mike Cooke CBE and Professor Chris Hollis; respectively the Chair and Director of NIHR MindTech HTC. Professor Cooke gave a warm, grounded introduction to the ‘Harnessing the Digital Revolution’ and Professor Hollis followed this with an overview of the NIHR Healthcare Technology Co-operatives and an introduction to the MindTech partnerships and mental health technology landscape.

Dr Geraldine Strathdee OBE, National Clinical Director, Mental Health, NHS England then spoke about the Mental Healthcare 2020 Vision. She reported that the mental health part of the NHS Choices website is ‘blossoming’ through increased service user involvement and diminishing mental health stigma. Her ‘earth moving basic priorities for 2016’ focus on electronic care records, efficient safe care and innovation through adaptive use of Big Data.

The first discussion session of the day focused on how to integrate digital technology within traditional face-to-face services, followed by a presentation on KOOTH.com, an award winning online and support service for 11-25 year olds, which focuses on advice, support and prevention, and integrates into existing mental health support systems.

The second discussion session focused on how to assess mental health apps; Alexia Tonnel, Director of Evidence Resources, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), gave a keynote address on how to provide citizens with access to an adequately assessed set of NHS and social care apps.

This was followed by a debate: ‘Trials or TripAdvisor: How should we assess mental health apps?’ Professor Elizabeth Murray, Director of the eHealth Unit, UCL, was of the view that service user were more than able to assess efficacy themselves by trying various apps out and that crowdsourcing and crowd-rating was highly appropriate. However, Charles Lowe, Managing Director at the Digital Health and Care Alliance made the point that doctors weren’t prescribing apps due to the lack of app regulation. He commended service user review but opined that in itself it wasn’t enough. Other issues raised included secure data encryption to protect patient data and the validity of advice and information provided by apps. When a vote was cast at the end of the debate the majority view was that robust service user review isn’t sufficient to evaluate mental health apps.

Professor Matthew Hotopf of the NIHR Maudsley BRC and IoPPN, King’s College London, then gave a presentation on enriching mental health data by better structuring and incorporation of clini-cal care data and lived experience.

After a well-earned break for lunch and networking, plus a chance to wander round an exhibition of various novel mental health technologies, the third discussion session consisted a presentation of an online clinical data and health management service followed by a ‘rapid fire technology showcase’, featuring emerging MindTech projects such as the ‘Emotional Test Battery’ to predict treatment response to anti-depressants, and the Prism online psychological therapies hub enabling uptake and evaluation of digital interventions in IAPT services.

The subject of the final discussion session was how to move from identifying clinically-driven needs to implementation, followed by the final keynote address on the technological future of the NHS, given by Andrew Chitty, Co-Founder of Digital Life Sciences. He spoke of the importance of e-health and its uptake by the NHS, and of possible technologies to come – including virtual doctors, virtual clinics and other modalities – which have the potential to increase ease of access to healthcare services by adopting more self-service oriented models.

The NIHR MindTech 2015 Mental Health Technology Symposium was an intense whirlwind introduction to the potential scope of and challenges caused by technological therapeutic intervention in mental health care. Nobody attending could be left in any doubt as to the advantages of the development and implementation of such innovation in the NHS.