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Ellen McGeoch is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships at NeuroFlow. Ms. McGeoch co-leads research efforts focused on improving patient outcomes through engagement with technology. Her current work explores the impact of incorporating various engagement methods within the veteran population.

If you’re a patient, you probably spend one hour per week at most with your therapist. When you leave the
therapy room, life happens. Whether it’s an “all hands” emergency meeting at work, a pop quiz or unexpected
test in class, a sick loved one, or a flat tire, the week’s other 167 hours can evaporate pretty quickly. That one hour conversation with your therapist becomes less and less of a priority, and so does the homework exercise your provider may have asked you to complete.

We know that with a physical injury – like a broken ankle – patients need to give their injury time to heal, engage in physical therapy, and practice exercises designated by their therapist at home. A similar treatment strategy can be applied to mental health – it takes time, therapy, and repeated practice, done between appointments, to make the necessary progress.

Technology is entering the picture to include patients in their own care and keep them accountable for the work they put in during therapy. Patients now have their own platform they can use to track their progress or complete assignments on their own time on their own devices. Acting as an extension of your health provider, new software tools have emerged to help overcome distractions and improve mental health conditions with a clear, structured methodology. The key? Reinforcement.

At NeuroFlow 1, a Philadelphia-based mental health technology company, we have studied the impact of
several techniques used to boost engagement. What we have learned since the company was founded in 2016, is that healthcare professionals around the country – and globe – are receptive to new solutions allowing their patients to feel better faster. Through our research, we have discovered that patients are emphatically responding to what we call the three core “pillars of engagement”: Daily Outreach, Incentives, and Understanding are all contributing to better, more consistent, patient outcomes.

Daily Outreach

Reaching out to patients on a daily basis can contribute to better, more consistent outcomes. Daily outreach can include questionnaires, mental exercises, mood ratings, journaling, push notifications and other subtle motivation needed to improve habitual awareness. Having a hard time remembering when to take your medication or go to the gym? A push notification can help patients remember. Studies have shown it to contribute to a 30 percent increase in compliance 2. Caring letters also serve a similar role, providing guidance, and encouragement through emails.

Incentives

In order to sustain progress, incentives can reward behavior and offer instant gratification for completed tasks. Incentives can be financial, emotional, or motivational. Presenting patients with data visualization can increase health outcomes by 60 percent 3; patients can take ownership of their care and see the positive steps being made along the way through better psychological reactions or improved questionnaire scores. Financial nudges also complement and reward completed assignments with gift cards or other perks for engaged users.

Understanding

‘Understanding’ is about democratizing mental health treatment and bringing more people into the “tech camp”. Ecological momentary assessments chart deviant behavior in stress levels, heart rate, and sleep
patterns, giving key insight into the patient’s emotional state when they are not in the clinician’s office. For the end user, this information is distilled and plotted in an easy to understand way. Visualizations and regular reports offer feedback and indicators of performance. Technology can create detailed action plans, allowing patients to understand the journey they are on – even if at the beginning it feels like they are lost in the middle of a corn maze.

With a continuous flow of information streaming in, technology can quickly summarize patient data allowing providers to spot trouble areas almost immediately. The behavioral outliers can often be traced back to a single moment of distress; maybe it was when the boss called you in for a surprise meeting or the pop quiz was announced in class. These are common occurrences that build-up anxiety and cause stress. If you’re undiagnosed or a prospective patient, we urge you to seek treatment from a clinical professional. With new tools available and an eroding societal stigma, better outcomes are emerging for those suffering from mental health conditions. We want you to know healthcare providers now have a better way to solve mental health’s fickle Rubik’s cube.

There has always been a missing link in getting patients and providers on the same page: that link was connecting technology to the industry. Patients and providers are moving closer together, because of the adoption of comprehensive mental health solutions. Instead of speaking two separate languages, both sides of the equation are empowered to work together on better outcomes.

 

References

  1. https://www.neuroflowsolution.com/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29464831
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26071863