Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-Founder, Natterbox, discusses how digital tech could make talking therapies more accessible
It’s an unfortunate fact that the NHS is struggling to keep up with the growing, and aging, population that requires its care and advice. It is continually forced to face, and tackle, new challenges that put its staff and budget under significant pressure.
In recent years we’ve seen many digital health initiatives, including mobile apps and tool kits, being developed by the likes of charities, universities and entrepreneurs, in an attempt to alleviate some of the pressure from the NHS. These provide help for those who might be affected by prolonged NHS wait times, or who are unable to afford private care. Alongside these online applications, there are also suggestions that talking therapies delivered over the phone could be an effective way to help people living with certain illnesses.
New research from the University of Southampton found that remote, phone-based, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help people living with IBS. Over-the-phone therapy was tailored specifically to the illness and offered practical advice on eating and exercise, as well as ways to manage stress, sleep and emotions. The research suggested that this type of CBT could also be applied to other conditions, ultimately helping make therapy via the NHS more efficient and readily available to those who need it.
The treatment of mental health disorders is just one area that could benefit from an NHS-wide talking therapy service. Over the last decade, healthcare professionals in the UK have been dealing with an increase in mental illness. As such, more care and treatment for patients suffering from these illnesses is needed than ever before. But with mental health services throughout the NHS chronically underfunded, waiting times are often unmanageable for patients who require urgent care.
Transitioning from legacy to digital
While seeking assistance via an app or online certainly has its benefits, nothing beats speaking to another human being in person, especially when it comes to treating the complex issue of mental health. Failing a face-to-face appointment – could providing care over the phone be the next logical step?
The issue is, anyone who has sat waiting on the phone trying to book an appointment with their GP will be well versed in the frustrations of many NHS phone systems. Whether they’re dealing with lost records or miscommunication between the healthcare professionals, patients are often impacted by the NHS’ heavy reliance on legacy technologies.
The phone is a great way for healthcare professionals to communicate with their patients efficiently and could be a vital tool in the provision of many treatments, including those that need help with mental illnesses. But if an organisation as large as the NHS is going to start delivering talking therapies remotely, it needs to ensure that its telephone systems are up to the challenge by first building robust foundations for them to sit on – a cloud telephony platform.
Using all the tools in your arsenal
A cloud telephony platform may not sound like a vital ingredient for medical treatment, but it can be a crucial tool for healthcare professionals. With this type of platform, medical staff can immediately identify patients records and see data from all previous NHS interactions. It removes the need for caregivers to search for old files, and for the patient to repeat their history over and over again. This frees up vital time, enabling healthcare professionals to provide the care and treatment they are trained for.
Those working in healthcare face many challenges when it comes to giving patients adequate care, attention and treatment. They work well beyond their contracted hours to help hundreds of patients – which can impact the quality of the care they want to provide. As such, implementing a cloud telephony platform should be a priority for all NHS Trusts to help ease some of the pressure their staff are under and provide them with an instant 360-degree view into every patient they speak to on the phone.
Face-to-face has always been the preferred method of communication between patient and doctor. While video-calling could be the next best thing, adopting this kind of solution can be a lengthy and inefficient process. It could also be inaccessible to those who may need it the most, the elderly for example.
The phone is hardly a new and exciting development, but desperate times call for desperate measures and isn’t it time we turned to the tools we already have at our fingertips. If it could help ease pressure on the NHS, while offering additional support to patients – a cloud telephony system that enables talking therapies is a no brainer.