How to work with innovation in digital mental health

woman using phone

Written by Angela Baker, Freelance Writer

Any healthcare administrator in a rural area faces many challenges when it comes to providing the kind of services that meet the needs of patients. Many mental health clients face various roadblocks to obtaining healthcare that works for them:

  • Lack of Education Regarding Mental Health
  • Absent or Unreliable Support Systems
  • Transportation Issues
  • Lack of Time For Appointments Due to Work And Family Obligations
  • Inability to Deal With Crises Without Burdening Already Overtaxed Emergency Rooms

As someone who is tasked with overseeing the planning and delivery of mental health treatments to a large, rural population, healthcare administrators must work to help their clients overcome these challenges.

Today, the vast majority of the clients are connected to the internet. Most of them have at least one smart device in their home. As connectivity has become the norm, clients using mental health services are accessing the web to learn more about their illnesses, seek support, and their families are doing the same. Because of this, healthcare professionals are able to make use of several digital innovations to better serve the mental health patients in their care. They are able to do this via:

  • Digitised Record Keeping
  • Online Appointment Systems
  • Online Prescriptions
  • Direct Treatment of Patients

These can be handled with the use of apps, smart devices, and web portals. Below is a description of the ways in which digital technology is being used to better serve patients.

The Benefits of Digital Treatment And Delivery Systems For Mental Health Patients

Innovations like this can be used to improve access. This is helpful to patients in remote areas, or who lack transportation. In addition to this, online resources can be used for self-help purposes, and allow patients to receive after-hours assistance. In some cases, patients can engage directly with their healthcare providers. These things benefit all healthcare patients but can have an even more significant impact on mental health patients who often struggle with access issues and stigma.

Digital Mental Health Innovations

Online Therapy

Online therapy or e-therapy are therapies that are delivered via the internet or mobile app. They involve direct interaction between the patient and the provider. These can be used for treating a variety of mental health conditions. This includes anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, in particular, has been found to be very effective using these methods of delivery. Patients may work through prescribed exercises and tasks, and then receive valuable feedback from their provider. In addition to sessions where patients communicate directly with their provider, online therapy can be enhanced with messenger applications and message boards.

Self-Help Resources

For many, talking directly to a provider can be difficult. So much so that many mental health patients first see a provider when they are in crisis. In addition to this, patients and their loved ones may struggle to understand symptoms. They may not be able to discern, for example, when to seek hospital care. With online self-help, patients and their families can access the information they need, use online resources to help them manage their illnesses, or even participate in online communities for support.

Online Appointment Systems

When a patient is in crisis, it can be comforting for him to be able to set up an appointment, even if he doesn’t receive immediate treatment. These appointment systems also result in savings for any clinic and allow therapists to spend more time with clients instead of dealing with appointments.

Of course, to make this work, healthcare administrators have to find a software package that is HIPAA compliant. In addition to this, they have to work to create scripts that are appropriate for the services they provide. Fortunately, there are various tools and resources to help; copywriting services, Audacity, GrabmyEssay editing services, and Survey Monkey for collecting customer input on their automated system.

Online Knowledge Base

While many self-help resources are delivered via mental health providers, hospitals, and insurance companies, public agencies can also help patients by providing access to information. This can be done by way of online knowledge bases that are freely available to the general public.

Jacob Noah is the EAP administrator at Studicus. He says, “Not only can this information be used by people struggling with mental illness, but it can also be a source of information for the loved ones, even healthcare providers. One of the downsides of the ability to share and access an abundance of information online is that not all of that information is vetted very well. It’s important to have reliable information for patients in order to counterbalance the prevalence of ‘woo’ available online.”

Digital Record-Keeping

Continuity is very important when it comes to meeting the needs of patients. This can be especially challenging with some mental health patients who may stop and start services, move frequently, or be unable to provide reliable information about their history in a crisis. This is why digital mental health record-keeping is such a valuable tool.

Of course, digital record-keeping itself isn’t revolutionary. What is worth noting is how developments such as using blockchain technology for medical records keeping is improving both security and accuracy.

Final Thoughts

Being able to implement digital innovations to improve the delivery of services to their mental health patients should be one of the biggest pride of any healthcare professional. However, innovation doesn’t end here. Healthcare leaders should make it their priority to discover new innovations that will allow them to better patient care in the near future.

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