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5 Ways to Empower Patients and their Families to Better Manage Mental Health Conditions

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People and their families who live the experience of mental illness and/or addictions bring wisdom to their own care. The WHO, Canada’s Mental health Commission and Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term care all agree that that people with mental health conditions need to be empowered to participate in the management of their own health and other human services. Like all patients, in order to effectively participate, they need skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their own health and health care. This is patient engagement and it is just as relevant for mental health conditions as it is for physical health conditions.

NexJ has identified five areas of opportunity for organizations that serve the needs of mental health patients.

  1. Transform content into practice – deliver personalized and shareable audio-visual client/patient visit records based on the wealth of content that mental health services providers already have
  2. Catalyse collaboration with client communities – enable mental health service providers to collaborate directly with clients, their families, and their full communities of support
  3. Support sustainable behavior change – deploy personal health coaching for clients to provide encouragement and support where they live in their communities
  4. Leverage the past and welcome the future – ensure new IT solutions are able to leverage existing IT investments and incorporate rapidly evolving health consumer technologies
  5. Capture and utilize social data – focus on solutions with potential for capturing and utilizing holistic data that enables leaders and front-line workers to design services with precision

Let’s explore each of these opportunities in a little more detail.

1 – Transform content into practice

Most mental health service providers have a wealth of content that they have painstakingly developed and curated and make available to clients through a website or in print. This content is rarely incorporated effectively into client visits and combined with the health professional’s personalized commentary and advice. We see this as a missed opportunity. These precious minutes in conversation with health professionals can be the most important moments for individuals in gaining a better understanding of their condition and subsequent adherence. These are the moments are when providers share their best thinking and clients make critical decisions concerning treatments and social services but sadly, 40-80% of the information provided by practitioners is forgotten immediately and clients accurately retain only about 10%of what health professionals tell them.

With NexJ Connected Wellness, mental health service delivery organizations can create teaching decks based on their existing content. Front-line health professionals can use the NexJ Health Pro tablet app to create engaging multi-media patient visit records (PVR) by overlaying plain language, infographic teaching decks with audio of their conversation plus annotations and even photographs of relevant paper documentation. Clients can review their PVR through NexJ Connected Wellness as well as securely share it with their circle of care including their trusted social support network and other health professionals. This approach has been proven to improve patient understandingretention and adherence.

2 – Catalyse collaboration with client communities

The Mental Health Commission of Canada and others have agreed that people and their families living with mental health illnesses should be actively involved as equal partners in making decisions about their services. The WHO agrees that greater collaboration among Health Service Providers and with “informal” mental health care providers – from families and faith leaders to school teachers, police officers and peer supports – is needed to fully address people’s mental health needs.  This is essential to ensure successful transitions from hospitals, correctional facilities or short-term supportive housing to the community. It also enables peer support which can help to reduce hospitalizations and improve quality of life.  Peer supports for families can help them to better understand the mental health system and improve their ability to care for their loved ones.

NexJ Connected Wellness has essential tools to enable providers, clients and their communities to collaborate more effectively. Client-friendly care plans give clients and their trusted circle of care an easy-to-understand reference about their conditions, treatment history, next steps and what to do in case of expected or adverse events. The results of using client-friendly care plans have been dramatic. One study showed 96% of clients were satisfied with their health professional versus 38% satisfaction with their prior health professional visit and, an 80% reduction in client follow-up phone calls to their HSP. Clients or their advocates can share their care plan with their Circle of Care, a personalized network of healthcare providers, family and friends and securely communicate with one another regarding the patient’s care to improve care coordination and collaboration. Scheduling and Assessments offer convenience for client and families in executing the plan, and administrative efficiency for HSPs. A Health Library enables client and families to access trusted, condition- and treatment-specific content from their HSP.

3 – Support sustainable behavior change

According to the WHO’s mental health action plan, mental disorders are often affected by and affect other diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Our mental and physical health are connected and they should be addressed together; people with chronic physical conditions are at higher risk of developing mental health problems, and people with mental health problems are less likely to receive the care they need to maintain their physical health. Medications are also an essential part of treatments and supports to foster recovery and well-being, however, a broad range of issues must be addressed.  And, early identification of recurring or new problems can have a profound effect in helping prevent addictions from taking over and shortening the journey to recovery from mental illnesses.

NexJ’s solution for personal health coaching, NexJ Health Coach, enables healthcare providers to deliver on-going support to adults so they can better manage their chronic conditions and achieve their health and wellness goals. NexJ Health Coach can help mental health and addiction clients manage their physical chronic conditions including required medication adherence. NexJ Health Coach is also ideally suited to monitor, encourage, support and intervene when people are experiencing problems wherever they are in their community. NexJ is excited to work with thought leaders in the community mental health sector on adapting NexJ Health Coach for individuals with mental illness and addictions.

4 – Leverage the past and welcome the future

In 2013 there were already 97,000 mobile health applications worldwide (Jahns, 2013). Smartphones are quickly transforming into medical devices and the “Internet of Caring Things” has been a health technology trend worth monitoring. Google, Apple, and Microsoft have all entered this market in the past year.  Mental health and addictions are part of this trend. There are already popular free apps for coping with anxiety and stress (BellyBio), assessing suicidal or distorted thoughts (Operation Reach Out, eCBT Calm), self-screening for depression (WhatsMyM3) and even Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach). In the context of such rapid change, the solution should include the ability to easily incorporate new apps and devices as they evolve.

At the same time, many mental health service organizations have made significant investments in Health IT solutions for their healthcare professionals. The challenge is that these two worlds do not typically communicate. Consumer apps support individuals, but HSPs cannot use the data generated to guide service design. Health IT systems enable clinicians to coordinate care, but do not give clients the benefit of their own data.

NexJ Connected Wellness bridges these separate worlds. NexJ Connected Wellness adds unique value to existing solutions through integration and maintains an open architecture to ensure future technologies can be incorporated. NexJ publishes Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that enable easy integration and development of new apps that leverage NexJ Connected Wellness capabilities. Recently, Fitbit, iHealth, Jawbone and Withings have been added to the list of wearable devices and third-party apps that integrate with NexJ Connected Wellness. This extends the ability of NexJ Connected Wellness to automatically capture real-life data and conveniently provide valuable insights to patients and their healthcare providers. It also enhances the ability of patients’ trusted family and friends to contribute encouragement and support. Through the Circle of Care patients can securely share a copy of their health information with their trusted friends, family, advocates and HSPs.

5 – Capture and utilize social data

Our understanding of how behaviors spread in social networks has been advanced recently by using large network data sets from public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. But these large observational studies of population health are unable to directly identify cause. Intentionally designed online health networks are required to enable large-scale data and observation of context-specific interactions to identify causal patterns in population health.

NexJ Connected Wellness has potential to enable HSPs to measure and evaluate the impact of services and social factors with a new level of precision. Participant’s activities in NexJ Connected Wellness can provide a direct behavioral measure of their interactions with their personal health community: their frequency of logins, the data they enter and their engagement with their Circle of Care. De-identified and aggregated data extracted from NexJ Connected Wellness can be useful for establishing correlations between features of participants’ social networks and their success in adopting new behaviors such as new exercise routines, nutrition practices or medication adherence.