Flow Neuroscience, the at-home depression treatment company that is bridging the treatment gap for patients to improve their depression, has announced it will be trialled by General Practice Alliance (GPA). The General Practice Alliance consists of 21 GP practices, offering people with depression the chance to have access to Flow. Independent evaluation will be undertaken by the Research & Innovation Team at Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT).
The programme will run for 12 months (from January 2023 to January 2024), or until at least 50 patients have used the Flow device, with the scope to increase patient numbers to a maximum of 100. With 83% of people who use Flow identifying improvement in depression symptoms – if successful, the programme has the potential to provide NHS patients with an additional and alternative treatment to antidepressants and psychotherapy.
The headset, when worn for just 30 minutes daily (21 sessions over 6 weeks) delivers electrical signals, to restore activity in the left frontal lobe area of the brain to help rebalance activity.
Combining decades of depression research with enhanced technology, Flow devices use a non-invasive brain stimulation technique called transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS). People diagnosed with depression often have lower neural activity in their left frontal lobe, the part of the brain controlling key cognitive skills, including emotional expression. With this in mind, the tDCS from the Flow headset is a form of neurostimulation that delivers constant, weak direct current via electrodes on the head to stimulate neurons in this area and help rebalance activity. With over 50,000 users to date, four out of five Flow users strongly recommend the device to others.
With the GPA and the NHFT having an incredibly positive track record of bringing new and innovative technology into the field, while successfully testing neurostimulation technologies and publishing the results, this trial will be an exciting opportunity to measure Flow’s impact in a real-world, NHS operational environment. The cost of the devices, training, measurement and any additional clinician resourcing required will all be covered by Flow Neuroscience for the duration of the yearlong trial.
For the duration of the trial, the Flow device will be offered as an alternative or addition to antidepressants/psychotherapy giving patients the option of a possible hybrid model of care too (using Flow, combined with other forms of treatment such as psychotherapy, and antidepressants). In the first instance, the GP will identify the symptoms of depression, while briefly informing the patient about Flow and how it works.
If the patient then chooses to use Flow, they will complete a brief self-assessment of standardised measures related to depression, functioning and health-related quality of life. They will then return after 6 weeks and see the GP again for a review, completing the same three measures again to gauge the impact.
Erin Lee, Flow Neuroscience CEO, said: “With the economic cost of mental illness in the UK estimated at £117.9 billion annually, and a multitude of people unable to access immediate or long-term access to treatment for their depression, we are incredibly excited about this opportunity with the Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and General Practice Alliance.
“There are currently thousands of people who are hesitant about taking medication and many who experience negative side effects. In addition to this, there are those who have tried traditional psychotherapy without feeling the benefits in the past. This trial will allow people to safely test out an effective alternative, that could potentially be life-changing – increasing patient choice and control over their treatment, with the chance to significantly shorten their treatment journey too.”
The brainchild of clinical psychologist Daniel Månsson and neuroscientist Erik Rehn, said: “Flow is Europe’s first and only medically approved at-home treatment using tDCS for depression. Last July, Flow’s platform received FDA Breakthrough Device Designation – the first and only tDCS device to do so.”
To maximise the chance of improvement the headset should be used in conjunction with the Flow therapy app. The app is based on the latest psychology and neuroscience research and was developed by clinical psychologists and machine learning experts. Flow gathers mood data and offers a personalised response modelled on behavioural therapy. It helps users to learn why sleep, exercise, nutrition and meditation are important in recovering from depression – and how they are connected to each other. The app engages users with daily chat conversations, self-help techniques, curated videos, mental exercises, and mood tracking.
For this trial, the relevant GPs will have access to Flow’s Clinical Platform, which can be used remotely, to monitor adherence and symptom change through time. In addition to this, they’ll be able to customise the treatment protocol based on how a patient is responding to the stimulation.