Putting the patient first

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For UK eHealth Week, we are sharing with you a series of guest blogs from our online therapy partners, highlighting some of the benefits of eHealth and drawing on their own experiences, both here and abroad. Today, we hear from Fennie Wiepkema of Minddistrict on how online therapy can support practitioners in putting the patient first. 

Putting the patient first: what’s the role of online therapy?

Many professionals in healthcare started their careers with one wish: to help people. And whether you’re still working with patients every day, or are now working in a more administrative or managerial position, the odds are that the patient’s wellbeing is still what motivates you.

For this exact reason, eHealth can be hard to get a grip on. Because how do you rhyme eHealth and online services with your work and purpose? Doesn’t online therapy mean you’ll see your patient less? Isn’t it just a way of saving costs? How does eHealth fit in?

In this blog, we explain how eHealth supports you in putting the patient first.

We’re all different

Even when a person is facing the same mental health problems as someone else, their way to recovery can be different. People are unique and thus they need different approaches, different tasks, different therapy. Online therapy increases the opportunities that a therapist has to personalise a treatment.

How does that work? You could look at the eHealth platform as a toolbox. Based on the patient, you pick the tools you think you need. These can be questionnaires, treatment modules, messaging, video sessions or a diary app.

Also, the use of eHealth itself can help you to make treatment more personal. In the words of therapist Adriana Coffey: “I always ask the patient to follow the more routine parts of therapy, like psychoeducation, online. This means there is more time in the face-to-face session to have in depth conversations. I feel I can make more use of the sessions.”

Patient empowerment

Therapists offer their patients therapy and counselling. But without a patient’s motivation, hard work and behaviour changes, the therapy won’t work. eHealth is designed to activate patients. If patients have a more active role in their own treatment, that treatment tends to have better results.

But eHealth is not only about activating, it’s also about patient empowerment. Take Suzy’s story for example. Suzy experienced sleeping problems and anxiety. Her therapist offered her the Generalised Anxiety Disorder module and a sleep diary smart phone app. “In the sleep diary, I had to fill in each morning how many hours I had slept and how many hours I was awake,” Suzy explains. “By filling this out, I found that I was actually sleeping better than I had thought. I tended to focus only on the nights I’d slept badly.”

Here, Suzy discovered for herself how her thoughts influence her health and behaviour. She is not told, she experiences. Online therapy not only activates patients, it empowers them, so that patients more often take credit for the results they see. This form of motivation contributes to longer lasting treatment effects. Or to say it in the words of a patient: “I feel like I did it myself.”

Extend your reach

As a therapist, you offer your patient the best therapy and guidance you can. But you’re just not always there to help. Most of the time, the patient has to face his or her problems alone. With eHealth, you can extend your reach. The patient has access to information, tasks or your feedback, even when you’re not around.

A man in social care disclosed a few weeks ago that he has among other things, severe sleeping problems. His care provider started working with online therapy from Minddistrict a year ago. “I really like my eHealth module. When I now lie awake in the middle of the night, thinking about my life, I often get up to sit behind my computer. I can read the tips in the module again and the feedback my social worker wrote. It feels good that I can do something, right then and there.”

The bigger picture

Perhaps you’re thinking, My colleagues and I already offer excellent care. What do I need eHealth for? In that case, we ask you to take a look at the bigger picture. Many people who need help have to wait endlessly to get treatment. If they enter the mental health system at all. In the meantime, the demand that is placed on health services only rises.

This is not a problem that can be easily solved. There is no ‘magic solution’. But online therapy and eHealth can definitely help to relieve the strain. They can help to beat waiting lists and improve access to care. For example by offering self-help to people on waiting lists, or by making treatment more efficient, reducing the no-show rate, or helping to break the stigma around mental health.

As the World Health Organization (WHO) recently stated, investment in people’s mental health is worthwhile. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. With online therapy, at least we can make a start for Britain.

Stick to your philosophy

We believe in the philosophy of putting the patient first. We also believe it is completely possible to do this online. Online therapy allows you to easily offer personalised therapy whilst also encouraging the patient to adopt a more active role in their treatment. You can reach your patients, even when you’re not around. And finally, on a larger scale, it enables us to help more people receive the treatment they need.