In our previous blogs on the subject of the complex mental and physical interface, we touched upon how poor mental health can serve as a risk factor for chronic conditions down the line, and also how having a comorbid mental condition in the context of a physical ailment like diabetes or coronary heart disease can be a marker for poorer prognosis. Indeed, a great amount of studies have demonstrated the sheer number of people dealing with these comorbidities as well as how best to identify, manage, and improve their well-being. Collaborative and stepped care programmes have been set up and have made inroads into the treatment of patients with mental and physical comorbidities all over the world. More work is being done every day to advance the knowledge of how best to deal with this modern crisis, knowing that as people live longer, they are at an increased risk of suffering from chronic physical conditions that can affect their mental wellbeing.
The Role of Technology
However, the current situation is that, simply put, there are not enough resources to cope with the demand this comorbidity brings. That is why technology can play such an important role, and which is why the future has to be now. Thankfully, the speed at which new health technologies develop is lightning quick. In fact sometimes it is a matter of focusing our efforts on the technologies that show results and identifying how best to incorporate them into the health sector and into each service. For measurement and prediction, promising research is being done around wearable technology.
Smart devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods of monitoring and detection. Smart phones and watches can now monitor not only our heart rate and number of steps we take each day, but through our skin can detect temperature and even things such as alcohol consumption. They can monitor movements using GPS technology, judge voice speed and pace to detect changes in mood and use artificial intelligence to detect changes in the pattern of texts that may signify a potential episode of depression, for example. These technologies all have the potential to work with online platforms that offer treatment for patients through specific and tailored content that speaks to their particular needs. SilverCloud Health has the benefit of offering a wide range of programmes, and some are precisely in line with the treatment of comorbid mental and physical health. Using online technology to measure a patient’s progress through and use of the platform, and changes in their mood and symptoms, SilverCloud Health is leading the charge in the fight to address the many challenges people with mental and physical conditions face. Healthcare systems are in need of innovation, change, and new technologies that can deliver proven treatments to more patients, in less time, and at reduced costs. An online platform embedded within healthcare systems can do just that.
The Role Online Interventions Can Play
Imagine then, the following scenario: Sally, 46 years old, has been recently diagnosed with diabetes. She initially tries to comply with all the instructions the doctors and nurses have given her, but it begins to frighten and overwhelm her. A specialist gives her a device that monitors her activity and sends her messages asking how she feels and to remember to take her medication. Sally begins to notice that her mood is taking a turn for the worse and makes a note on her device, which alerts the health care practitioner, who offers access to a programme called Space from Diabetes, offered by SilverCloud Health, where Sally learns to self-manage her disease better, and how to handle the stress that comes with having this new condition. She is also assigned a supporter who tracks Sally’s use of the programme and sends feedback on her activity.
Sally is happy to have this information available 24/7 and feels empowered to independently take these challenges on, knowing support is at hand. She takes a turn for the better and her diabetes is better managed as a result, improving her quality of life and prognosis in general. This is not an unrealistic situation; many people with comorbid physical and mental conditions will need and benefit from having access to these technologies. It is our goal at SilverCloud Health that we can contribute to addressing these needs and delivering access to many people like Sally. Our suite of programmes for long term conditions are part of the first of many steps, into the future, we are taking now to fulfil that goal.
Dr. Jorge E Palacios is a clinical researcher for SilverCloud Health, as well as a member of the e-mental health research group at Trinity College Dublin. He is involved in several research projects, focusing on delivering internet-based psychological therapy to diverse clinical and non-clinical populations. He completed his PhD in Psychological Medicine, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, where he worked on trajectories of depression and anxiety symptomatology in Coronary Heart Disease. He recently was awarded the Young Investigator of the Year prize from Elsevier and the European Association of Psychosomatic Medicine, presented in Barcelona in 2017. Dr. Palacios completed his medical degree in Mexico before moving to London to undertake a master’s degree in Psychiatric research, which he passed with distinction in 2012.
For a full list of his publications visit: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jorge_Palacios3