Lack of access to mental healthcare is affecting Scotland along with the rest of the world – as there aren’t enough clinicians to meet increasing demand. ieso has been working with the NHS and using technology to meet this demand for over a decade. 

Our clinicians provide typed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) on behalf of NHS Scotland via our secure online platform, reducing travel and wait times and helping people in rural areas access care.

As demand grows, the next generation of digital tools are coming. These tools aim to reduce the human input needed for mental health treatment, enabling clinicians to treat more people. 

Some of these tools may be waitlist interventions, alleviating symptoms so people require fewer sessions once they receive therapy, some may prove effective enough that people no longer require therapy. 

In the last six months, ieso has been trialling its own digital programme to support people experiencing anxiety, stress and worry.

At ieso, we believe that delivering mental health treatment digitally is an important tool to increase both access and choice for patients. Many patients prefer this mode of treatment, that can reduce patient concerns about privacy and anonymity. 

This is echoed by many of our partners in the NHS, who find that by integrating digital alongside more traditional approaches such as face-to-face therapy, they’re able to increase the number of people that can access treatment.

Recently, digital mental health tools have come under scrutiny from the media, independent watchdogs, and regulators, for their standards of safety, effectiveness, and privacy. 

At ieso, we welcome this scrutiny as it’s critical that all providers of these tools study their safety, efficacy and patient experience in real-world settings.

ieso is a healthcare company first and a technology company second – our digital program in-trial uses rules-based conversational AI, a type of AI that simulates a conversation, using pre-populated content written by ieso clinicians to the highest clinical standards, ensuring risk management and safety guardrails are in place. 

ieso’s chief AI officer, Dr Valentin Tablan has overseen this. “We are excited about the opportunities that AI technology creates to improve access to high quality care,” he says.

“To realise that potential, it’s important that we take a responsible, incremental approach, and we ensure that the AI-supported products and services we are building are safe. 

“We have worked with qualified therapists, lived experience experts, and test users to stress-test and verify the behaviour of our systems, and to validate their suitability”.

And ieso’s scientists are trialling the programme to rigorous NHS REC (research ethics committees) levels which could open the door for future randomised control trials, confirmatory studies to ensure safety and efficacy with NHS patients.

At ieso we take privacy seriously – our responsible innovation principles, co-designed with our lived experience partners, ensure we store patient data confidentially, protect it using the highest encryption and security standards, and use it responsibly, and transparently, in accordance with local laws, regulations and standards.

Dr Andrew Welchman, ieso’s EVP impact and corporate development, explains why responsible innovation is so important. “Innovative new technology can transform mental healthcare – enabling people to rapidly receive high-quality support at times and places that best suit them,” he says. 

“But, technology won’t work if people can’t trust it. That’s why responsible innovation is so important to ieso: respecting users’ data and privacy, ensuring we’re helping diverse users, and learning from the expertise of patients and clinicians to best serve their needs.”

It’s clear that digital mental health tools have great promise in increasing access to evidence-based treatment – at ieso, we aim to lead the way in implementing these crucial measures so their potential can be realised, while keeping the patient at the heart of everything we do.

Partner Content in association with ieso