Accessible mental healthcare through next-generation digital health
With greater emphasis on increasing access to support, there has been a surge in mental healthcare services offering evidence-based treatment through diverse channels and approaches. Limited access to travel, mental health stigma, workforce and financial challenges, and digital poverty contribute to the current barriers in accessing treatment.
Tackling stigma is key to improving mental health. Research conducted by See Me Scotland found 56% of people with a mental health condition across the country still experience stigma and discrimination. Although mental health awareness is improving, stigma around talking about it or asking for help can still create barriers for prevention, early intervention and recovery.
Digital technology plays a significant role in improving health and social care, and the pandemic accelerated this change towards ambitious digital health programmes and strategies. ieso have recently seen a transformation in the way people interact online in the digital world, with access to the internet becoming increasingly essential. However, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) report there are over 500,000 people who do not have the Internet at home. For instance, people with low incomes or in rural environments, who may experience digital exclusion.
There is a recognised need for people to access services with greater flexibility, immediacy and discretion. By signposting patients to NHS-trusted providers offering confidential quality mental health care, patients can start their treatment quickly and with ease.
ieso in partnership with NHS Scotland
ieso have been in partnership with NHS Scotland for 5 years, with the typed therapy service being offered in every health board across the country. Research has shown that typed therapy is as effective as face-to-face treatment. After many years of exploration, a research paper published in The Lancet in 2009 demonstrated the clinical effectiveness of text-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a mode of delivering CBT that has become increasingly popular with NHS patients in the last 10 years.
ieso provides text-based therapy enabling patients to interact with a clinician via an online secure confidential messaging platform. Patients join their treatment session with a qualified clinician from anywhere with an internet connection. This removes the requirement to travel to their appointment and has been effective for patients in rural communities, for example, in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, where easy commuting can be limiting. Flexible appointments are available seven days a week, between 6am – 11pm, to work around patient commitments with over 60% of appointments made outside ‘normal working hours’.
“I found the whole experience very helpful. The text-based service is perfect for what I needed, and I could fit it around other commitments easily. My therapist was great and I genuinely feel so much better than when I started!” Patient, Trustpilot review
With an average wait time of 21 days from referral to starting treatment, patients can access treatment with minimal delay by signing up for typed therapy. ieso offers a self-referral route for those in Western Isles, adopting a more discrete means of signing up to psychological therapies. In October 2022, this service was expanded to include Orkney and Shetland. Additionally, more health boards are now adopting a primary care referral focus, utilising their PCMHTs and surgery-based mental health workers to stream suitable patients directly to ieso.
Patients are at the heart of everything we do at ieso. We’re blending clinical insights and data science to learn what helps people to feel better via treatment and recover from common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and mood disorders. As an online provider of psychological therapy, ieso have delivered over 600,000 hours of therapy to more than 110,000 people on behalf of the NHS through the network of 600 accredited CBT Therapists and Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners.
Find out more at www.iesogroup.com
 Kessler, D., Lewis, G., Kaur, S., Wiles, N., King, M., Weich, S., Sharp, D., Araya, R., Hollinghurst, S. and Peters, T., 2009. Therapist-delivered internet psychotherapy for depression in primary care: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 274 (9690), pp. 628-634