The mental health sector has been one of the areas of healthcare at the forefront of adopting and embrace technology. As demand for mental health support is expected to continue to grow, innovation in this field – to help provide stretched services with more ways of providing care to more patients – is becoming increasingly important.
As we continue to run through all of our fantastic finalists, and their work, for the Health Tech Awards 2021, we now turn our attention to the ‘Digital Mental Health Solution of the Year’ category.
Here at HTN, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who entered and encourage all our readers to dive into these case studies to find out more information on these excellent innovators and NHS trusts.
Founded in February 2020, MYNDUP offers digital services across the mental health spectrum to provide comfort and flexibility, with a main objective of putting an end to the “one-size fits all” status quo in the UK mental healthcare sector, through a “simple and straight-forward approach” based on three essential elements: accessibility, inclusivity and affordability.
According to MYNDUP, the average waiting time to receive care through the company is about 12 hours, while it usually takes days or weeks to book a session with a “high-calibre” practitioner. Clients can book a one-to-one session at a time of their convenience, which will take place through a video call on a laptop, smartphone, or PC, and a practitioner will tailor a programme to suit the client’s needs and objectives.
MYNDUP says it takes several measures to make sure that its offer is as inclusive and high-quality as possible, including collaborating with experts and practitioners from different cultural and social backgrounds, so that MYNDUP clients have the choice to go with a practitioner who shares a similar background with them. The company also offers services in different languages, including those spoken by minorities, and free sessions to NHS staff, with employees of other companies having access to a free one-hour session per week if a company purchases a bundle.
MYNDUP is now serving over 50,000 employees in more than 20 countries, counting global brands like Savills and JBT among its clients. The service grew to an average of 5,000 users per month in a little over a year, and 45 per cent of session bookings come from companies’ senior management. According to MYNDUP, a case study at the company Eastdil Secured revealed that it helped the company achieve an industry average engagement rate of 43 per cent and 100 per cent of users had boosted confidence, motivation, and productivity.
Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, in partnership with 13 organisations across three clinical commissioning groups, have used digital innovation to transform children and young people’s mental health services. A web-based platform was invented to bring together a single point of access, utilising one digital referral form, and providing support and resources.
The specialist children’s trust initiated the work prior to COVID-19, with the aim to provide support and resources for children and young people (C&YP), families and professionals.
Feedback from users included that mental health services and resources were not clearly accessible, felt confusing and that in the system it is hard to navigate and get support. Alder Hey’s vision to address this was to provide children and young people’s mental health (CYPMH) services via an integrated web-based platform, which would digitally innovate and transform how the services are offered.
At the time, there were multiple points of entry for different organisations, while all referrals were paper-based, different questions were asked within the referrals, different organisations provided different advice, and accessing referrals and advice was convoluted.
To streamline the process and improve user experience all referral forms were collated and tested for clinical validity, a digital referral form was created and tested, and an external partner redesigned the referral form and the web-based platform based on the information previously gathered through interviews and test groups.
The web-based platform was launched in May 2021 and feedback and intelligence from users is being continuously collated. It has been designed to be easily adaptable to the needs of the population and a resource section offers things to watch, things to read and things to download whilst waiting or receiving treatment. The resource section has also been clinically validated through ORCHA.
As the integrated care systems (ICS) begin to form, the platform has been presented to the Cheshire and Merseyside Healthcare Partnership (C&M HCP) and NHSX, while Alder Hey want to utilise it as the hospitals ‘digital front door’ of the future.
Central and Northwest London NHS Trust
Central and Northwest London NHS Trust has rolled out a new mental health app called Kooth across its local boroughs to help support children and young people with their mental health, and ensure a single, consistent service offer.
Kooth is an app aimed at young people aged between 11 – 25 years, with a team of counsellors to provide support those suffering from poor mental health. Accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, it has seen usage increase by 42 per cent recently.
All boroughs in north-west London will be using the tool as a single online platform. It uses an anonymous digital self-referral service and aims to reduce referrals to Specialist Children’s and Adolescent Mental Health services. The app and its support is available 24/7 and has self-help resources on the platform to deal with a wide range of mental health issues. The company has also partnered with NHS Kent and Medway CCG to roll out the service to 20 – 25-year-olds.
Ross Graves, Executive Director of Partnerships and Commercial Development, Central and North West London NHSFT, said: “Kooth are a great partner who will make a difference, helping young people find the support they need more speedily. It’s also great to see all NHS organisations working together to provide a single service across the whole North West London.”
Dr Lynne Green, Chief Clinical Officer at Kooth PL, commented: “Digital mental health services such as Kooth offer young people quick and easy support for their emotional health without the usual waiting lists. This can reduce the need for specialist intervention services as the problem is treated when it first occurs, and prevents it from escalating further.”
CorLife, a ‘welltech platform’ designed by ex-NHS doctors, consultants and scientists, focuses on helping individuals take control of their health through long-term behavioural change via a personalised programme, using medical data to track, monitor and educate users.
The company describes itself as a “reinvention of the clinical coaching by leveraging technology to help businesses improve workforce productivity at scale”. Dedicated to driving performance, improving personal resilience, and enabling lasting behavioural change, Corlife aims to reduce long-term risk of disease and drive the wellness agenda. The platform collects data from blood results, smart watches and scales to inform participants of their current health status. This data is then used to personalise a programme for the individual by looking at their whole health, to inform health outcome trajectory and enable individuals to make conscious healthy choices and behaviour change.
According to the company, CorLife previously ran a proof of concept with Samsung, BP and FujiFilm, with results including average weight loss of 5.1kg in six months and an improvement in self-reported view of health and energy levels. In 2020, CorLife accelerated its roll out of technology, addressing the health and wellbeing of employees that were working in a new way. Following a relaunch of the app, the company partnered with Garmin to enhance data through wearable tech and signed on Spirit Energy’s global workforce.
CorLife combines those elements, such as data from blood tests and wearable trackers, alongside science, to provide an all round understanding and advise clients how to better improve their health, as well as to help improve overall employee health for greater productivity and reduced sick days.
Our final entry to this category is Calm Harm – an app designed to help young people resist or manage the urge to self-harm. Developed by teenage mental health charity stem4, the app was created co-collaboratively to provide evidence-based early intervention.
A free application, Calm Harm has been downloaded almost 2 million times and is aimed at young people aged 13-19. Offering ‘immediate techniques’ to help break users out of the cycle of self-harm, the app is based on the notion that ‘the urge to self-harm is like a wave – it feels most powerful when you start wanting to do it. Once you surf the wave, the urge will fade.’ Users can learn to ‘surf the wave’ by doing five or fifteen-minute activities in these categories:
- Distract – helps to combat the urge by learning self-control;
- Comfort – helps to care rather than harm;
- Express Yourself – gets those feelings out in a different way;
- Release – provides safe alternatives to self-injury.
There is also a breathing technique to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Calm Harm was developed by Dr Nihara Krause, a Clinical Psychologist, in collaboration with young people and uses strategies from evidence-based Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) to help users learn to identify and manage their ‘emotional mind’, teaching impulse control, emotional regulation and tracking underlying triggers to harmful urges. It also allows young people to access help if they do not meet the criteria for CAMHS referral, whilst waiting for treatment, or to help during treatment, as well as catering to those young people who do not want to access conventional services. The tasks are targeted for different ages, while the app can be personalised, accessible to marginalised groups and is updated regularly using user feedback.
stem4 worked closely with its digital partner HMA and a co-creation process with teenagers took place through user engagement sessions, while the company says that Calm Harm has been built to comply with NHS digital technology standards, which includes a rigorous approach to clinical safety, and is one of only 15 mental health apps listed on the NHS Apps Library.
The app is private, with no identifiable user data collected, and no internet access is required for its use. The app allows user anonymity, whilst delivering statistics to evidence effectiveness and inform future development decisions using inbuilt app analytics. So far, Calm Harm has been downloaded over 1.9 million times in 215 countries/territories (Google Analytics) and it says that over 70 per cent of users are under 19.
Downloads of Calm Harm also increased by 20 per cent during the pandemic and stem4 developed guidance in the form of a booklet and animation which are signposted from the app, which included a focus on specific mood issues that may have increased during or as a result of the pandemic. For those unable to access the app digitally, a card pack version called ‘Calm Cards’ has been created, and a localised version of Calm Harm has also been licensed to Leeds City Council and CCG as part of the city’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan.