GPs can now offer a digital therapeutic to patients showing symptoms of mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Wysa is an NHS-approved AI-enabled mental health app for common mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression, which are often secondary comorbidities accompanying many long-term physical health conditions.
Around 30% of all people with a long-term physical health condition also have a mental health problem, most commonly depression and anxiety. At the same time, the presence of mental disorders increases the risk of chronic physical illnesses like obesity or diabetes.
Research shows that of those with symptoms of mental health problems, 37.6% also have long-term physical conditions, compared to 25.3% of the population.
In 2016, The King’s Fund reported that the psychological problems associated with physical health conditions, and vice versa, cost the NHS more than £11 billion a year – something that will only have increased as rates increase.
GPs want to support patients much faster than talking therapy services can begin treatment, and often resort to medication as an interim prescription solution. In many cases patient’s mental health symptom levels do not qualify for IAPT due to a severity mismatch, leaving the patient’s mental health to deteriorate. IAPT services see approximately 1.8 million people per year. Given that 1 in 6 aged 16+ in the UK has the symptoms of a common mental health disorder (approx 7 million people), there are a huge number of people not being treated.
Dr Farhan Amin, a GP and digital pioneer within the NHS said: ‘We go into the job wanting to help people, but time pressures and lack of resources mean we just can’t support people in the way we want. Patients need more support with their mental health outside of the surgery, especially with lengthy waiting times meaning access to more traditional therapies can be delayed.
‘Offerings like Wysa provide 24/7 help to our patients and remove some of the admin burden and clinical time from surgery staff. Having a ‘digital pill’ that is evidence-based and clinically validated will allow us to help so many more people.’
The app is clinically safe, adhering to strict DTAC controls. GPs can offer Wysa to patients in the knowledge they will receive high-quality care wherever and whenever it is needed. Access is via a mobile phone or tablet.
Ross O’Brien, UK Managing Director at Wysa said: The mental health crisis isn’t going away. Frontline staff are stretched and sometimes have no avenue to support people. GPs need to give their patients something. And there will be funds to do so via a cash boost of investment for GP practices to expand their services as part of a new five-year contract from the NHS. Now is the chance to put good mental health in everyone’s hands, literally.”
Wysa has already been rolled out across a number of NHS IAPT talking therapy services. In this scenario, it allows patients an alternative way of making a referral, effectively becoming a ‘digital front door’ to both digital and therapist support. It is also used in IAPT services as a waitlist support tool.
Wysa is a global leader in AI-driven mental health support, available both to individuals and through employer benefits programs. Wysa helps in dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety with the help of an “emotionally intelligent” bot, which uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioural techniques (CBT), meditation, breathing and mindfulness exercises, as well as micro-actions to help users build mental resilience skills. Wysa has facilitated over 550 million conversations in 65 countries across the globe. Wysa works with 20 enterprise partners to support 7 million employees worldwide, with partners that include the Ministry of Health in Singapore, Aetna International and L’Oreal.
Dr Farhan Amin is a general practitioner and technologist. He was awarded one of the top 50 innovators in the NHS by Health Service Journal in 2014 for his pioneering work on using patient stories to improve healthcare services.
Dr Amin is recognised as a digital pioneer in improving the uptake of ‘Digital Therapeutics’ for Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria STP. He is an honorary research fellow at the University of Cumbria. Dr Farhan Amin is a GP with no connection or commercial relationship with Wysa.