Digital therapeutics, personalisation and Mental Healthcare

‘There is no-one-size-fits-all in mental health. People have distinct needs and goals, and tools for health must reflect this.’ —Emily Stott, Product Manager, Foundations

Despite the widely accepted truth that every person is different and so experiences health conditions differently, traditional healthcare relies heavily on standardisation or treating all patients suffering from an illness or emergency with the same set of procedures—the polar opposite of personalisation.

Unfortunately, when it comes to mental healthcare and ongoing care for chronic and long-term health conditions, standardisation typically means many patients don’t receive the right care at the right time.

An accessible, inclusive and more personalised approach is required, especially for mental health issues, which are generally characterised by many people not accessing any kind of support—in a given year, 57% of people with a mental illness do not receive any treatment (Mental Health America).

To make care more effective while keeping it economical, mental health support will have to find an appropriate balance between standardised use of clinically validated techniques and personalising them to each individual’s unique circumstances.

Why does personalisation matter in mental health?

Although standardisation works well in many instances, such as stitches for a profusely bleeding wound—it works less well when it comes to ongoing care and mental health support. In particular, when a health improvement depends on changes in a person’s behaviour, standard treatment may fall short.

This is likely because behavioural changes require substantial (and regularly occurring) motivation and support. A therapist telling a patient during a regularly scheduled visit that they recommend journalling or exercising more often to feel better is only one step of many (albeit a very important one). But for busy clinicians, providing immediate, individualised follow-up to encourage patients to follow through is a significant challenge.

How can personalisation be made time and cost-effective?

While in-person or face-to-face personalised care is neither time nor cost-effective for patients (or doctors), technology has begun to provide viable alternatives for providers, patients and insurers open to digital health tools. Marcos Oda, Product Manager at Mindset and Perspectives shares his opinion on the potential of digital therapeutics (and their cost and time-effectiveness):

‘Personalisation via digital therapeutics can help practitioners motivate patients to trust the process, ultimately increasing effectiveness and reducing the costs. With these tools, patients are also more likely to adhere to treatment and may potentially reach a wellbeing state faster, as clinicians are able to provide a therapy that’s more tailored to each individual, improving the quality of time invested with patients’.

Why digital therapeutics may be the answer

Deliverable at a distance, with fewer barriers to access, digital therapeutics offer an alternative to standardised face-to-face care that’s both cost and time effective.

Beyond increasing access, the more we can move mental healthcare toward personalisation, the better chance we have of improving people’s behaviours and health long-term. Because when we put more control in the hands of the individual, they’re empowered, self-directed and can be a part of delivering their own care and self-advocate for their own health.

When people can just go to their phones and get help discreetly via an app, they’re much more likely to access support. It’s easier to build healthier long-term habits with practical tools that offer immediate help and advice that’s evidence-based and customised to the problem set identified. Sarah Shepherd, Head of User Research at Koa Health sees even greater potential:

‘Making quality healthcare more personalised and more accessible [via digital health solutions] is something that has measurable, positive effects on individuals and their families—it has a ripple effect and can improve entire communities.’

Which solutions are evidence-based?

With thousands of digital health solutions out there (and only around 3% of them with an evidence base to back them up), how can employers, insurers and healthcare providers know they’re choosing the right ones? Which options are supported by appropriate clinical scientific rationale, handle data securely, and are financially sound enough to last for a significant period of time?

At Koa Health, our app-based wellbeing tools are designed by mental and behavioural health experts to be practical, personalised and accessible. Recently, Foundations, our science-based mental wellbeing app, designed to help employees handle stress and build resilience on and off the job, received a 100% rating in clinical assurance (and an 88% rating overall) from ORCHA, the organisation that NHS digital uses to evaluate apps.

We're truly honored to figure among a privileged few. Only 15% of apps evaluated on ORCHA's criteria for data privacy, clinical assurance and user experience meet minimum standards. Koa Health is also committed to tracking results for all of our solutions in large-scale trials and sharing them for peer review, to ensure that they’re evidence-based and make an impact.

Our solutions enable people to better manage mental health issues ranging from workplace stress to chronic conditions requiring a doctor’s supervision with clinically validated techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy.

Does your organisation use digital therapeutics to personalise care? Why or why not? Let us know at hello@koahealth.com.

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    Koa Health

    The Team @ Koa Health

    Our diverse team of developers, researchers, psychologists and behavioral health experts work together to create practical, thought-provoking content to accompany our range of digital therapeutics.