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Digitising Mental Healthcare: Averting the Looming Crisis

An Economist Impact Webinar

Digital solutions proved to be invaluable during the covid-19 pandemic, keeping communication flowing, businesses running and services accessible. The health care sector was particularly quick to innovate and adapt. Building on existing technology and practices, telemedicine and telehealth solutions deployed at scale-particularly remote monitoring-were critical in delivering essential services to patients. Mental and behavioural health was perhaps the single most affected segment across all health care. The pandemic saw the adoption of new digitally-enabled start-up services, business models and digital therapeutics, but socioeconomic pressures and burdens continue to mount. Engaging with patients in harder-to-reach communities and places remains a major focus, and active outreach will be needed alongside more virtual care providers and therapists to improve access.

Effective mental-health care also calls for customisable, tailored therapy options. In-depth diagnostics and tailored treatments can help to democratise care. Huge advancements are being made in digital therapeutics. AI and digital tools can purposefully aggregate and analyse data to measure progress and effectiveness, feeding back into research on new therapies and guiding the development of new treatment pathways and solutions. But concerns about data privacy could limit collaboration and innovation.

Digital technology is the enabler of our age—so how can we best use it to improve mental health services, increase access and address challenges related to inequality? “Digitising mental health care: averting the looming crisis”, programmed by Economist Impact and sponsored by InterSystems, brings together mental health experts and industry leaders to discuss the role of AI and digital technology in curbing the mental health crisis. How can patient-centric therapies be designed for better outcomes? How can regulators and educators contribute to digitising mental health care?

Key discussion points

  • How can digital tools expand the reach of mental health services when need is increasing and the pool of therapists is limited?
  • What populations have been best and worst served by virtual care options?
  • How can digital processes be monitored for errors, and who is held accountable for patient safety incidents and misdiagnoses?
  • What role does data play in making new discoveries and developing more effective and tailored therapies and solutions?
  • How can clinicians be trained and guided on new digital methods and existing tools?
  • What preventive measures, digital therapies and access initiatives could be designed for young people and children? What role can educators play in increasing awareness of mental health issues and reducing the associated stigma?

James Reed
Chief clinical information officer, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

Julie Smith
Senior clinical product manager, InterSystems

Julian Beezhold
Secretary-general, European Psychiatric Association (EPA)

Adam Chekroud
Cofounder and president, Spring Health

Ore Ogunbiyi
Health-care and consumer correspondent, The Economist