MindTech and the James Lind Alliance have identified the Top 10 questions for digital technology in mental healthcare!

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29th August 2018

Over the last two years we have been working with the James Lind Alliance - and a range of people and organisations -  to identify the ten most pressing questions about digital technology for mental health. 1350 questions were submitted by people with lived experience and health professionals and, using the JLA methodology, we have filtered these down to the final top 10. It is our intention that these will guide the funders of research to ensure that future research is focused on answering these questions and that the potential of digital technology for mental health can be fully realised.  

The full results of the project have now been published in the Lancet Psychiatry and so we able to reveal the top 10 for the first time!

The Top 10 Questions!

  1. What are the benefits and risks of delivering mental health care through technology instead of face-to-face and what impact does the removal of face-to-face human interaction have?
  2. How do certain mental health conditions (e.g. depression) affect how people engage with technology?
  3. How can treatment outcomes be maximised by combining existing treatment options (medication, psychological therapies etc) with digital mental health interventions?
  4. At what point in the care pathway (e.g. crisis intervention, prevention, engagement, treatment, maintenance, and recovery) are digital interventions most safe and effective?
  5. How should apps for mental health be evaluated and endorsed?
  6. What impacts will the adoption of digital technology in mental health services have on capacity, access to services, waiting times and preferred appointment times?
  7. Are therapies (e.g. CBT) delivered via digital technology as effective as those delivered face-to-face?
  8. Can the common elements of therapy (e.g. empathy, gestures, non-verbal cues) that come from person-to-person interactions be maintained with digital technology interventions?
  9. Do digital health interventions increase reach and access to groups and people less well served by traditional mental health services (e.g. Black and ethnic minorities, men with depression, people in rural areas etc)?
  10. How can social media be used more effectively to bring people with mental health problems together and help them connect e.g.  in their communities, rather than isolating them in their homes?

The project and the Top 10 questions are discussed fully in our Lancet Psychiatry paper and also in a blog by John Torous (Director of the Digital Psychiatry Division, in the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard Medical School affiliated teaching hospital) for The Mental Elf website. 

Read the full paper: The Lancet Psychiatry JLA Top 10 paper

The Mental Elf Blog: https://elfi.sh/2o2byFs

Download the Top 10 Questions: pdfJLA_Top_10_questions.pdf

Watch our online webinar where a panel of experts discuss the Top 10 questions: DigitalMHQ Webinar

What do you think? 

Now that we have the top 10, the next steps are to discuss how these can best be answered, through new research projects, methods and partnerships. Join in the discussion on twitter via #digitalMHQ and re-tweet to your networks. 

Scout has made a new video to introduce the Top 10 questions and explain why this project is so important!


Digital Technology for Mental Health: Asking the right questions

This MindTech-led project was about people working together to find the top ten research priorities for digital technology for mental health. 

Online support groups, smartphone apps, computer games, virtual reality, virtual therapists, robots....so many big ideas emerging about how digital technology can be used for mental health. But what’s the best way to use the technology?

The ‘Asking the right questions’ project aimed to decide the 10 most pressing questions about digital technology for mental health and share these with researchers so that future research targets these priorities. To make sure that they are grounded in the everyday experience of mental health, these questions came from people with lived experience of mental health problems and health and social care professionals.

Huge opportunities to transform mental health care are offered by the internet, online services and the full range of digital technologies. But we need to know much more about the impacts of these new technologies. We were interested in understanding what research questions people with lived experience of mental health problems and health and social care professionals have about these new technologies. This collaborative project aimed to identify these research questions and then decide which matter the most and deserve priority attention. Working with the James Lind Alliance  as part of one of their Priority Setting Partnerships enabled us to achieve this. 

What do we mean by Digital Technology for Mental Health?

The internet and the way new ‘apps’ and systems are used on computers and mobile devices have the potential to transform mental health care. These types of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) offer people who use services greater access to information and connect people, services and health data in new ways. From an app on your mobile phone right through to ‘Big Data’, new possibilities are emerging all the time.

Why do we need to know more about research priorities?

While the potential of digital technology to transform mental healthcare is recognised, the evidence base for how this transformation can happen is sparse. More research is needed, but at the same time, we need to target limited research and development resource to areas that meet the needs of people who access services and the clinicians supporting them. All too often research priorities are set by academics or industry. We think understanding more about the research priorities wanted by service users, their supporters and clinicians, will enable the NHS to better realise the digital revolution.

What is a James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership? 

The James Lind Alliance (JLA) is a non-profit making initiative, established in 2004. It brings patients, carers and clinicians together in Priority Setting Partnerships (PSPs). These partnerships identify and prioritise uncertainties, or ‘unanswered questions’, about the effects of treatments that they agree are the most important. The aim of this is to help ensure that those who fund health research are aware of what really matters to both patients and clinicians. 

In our project we are aiming to find out what matters most to people who have direct knowledge of mental health care and treatment and how digital technology is impacting on this. Whether that’s personal lived experience of mental health problems or experience as a mental health professional, all views are considered equal and by working together we want to make a real difference to future research.

The project was guided by a protocol which was agreed by all members of the project Steering Group. 
pdfMindTech JLA PSP Protocol