homepad medivoPeople living in northwest Surrey who experience severe depression are to trial new telehealth technology that aims to provide them with a more tailored and flexible programme of care at home.

The trial will provide participants with new technology in the home to support behavioural activation therapy, a treatment that helps people to reduce behaviours that maintain depression and to encourage positive activities.

Those living in the Spelthorne and Runnymede areas will be the first to trial the telehealth programme, which has been developed by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and telehealth specialists Medvivo, before it is extended across Surrey. To be considered for the programme, people will have had to undergo a detailed assessment to check this treatment and method of support is the best fit for their needs. 

Once participants have agreed to their programme, they will be given a 10” tablet-style computer, known as the Medvivo ‘HomePod’, to regularly record information about their mood, wellbeing and whether they are managing to complete agreed tasks. About 100 local people who use the Trust’s Community Mental Health Recovery Services will get the chance, over the next two years, to take part in the trial.

Improve access to mental health services

Dr Helen Rostill, director of innovation and development at Surrey and Borders, said the technology will allow for a greater choice of treatments for depression.

"We already see people in their own homes, and will continue to do so, but we know there are factors that prevent people from making contact, and that people can simply have trouble taking that important first step toward engaging with us," Dr Rostill said.

"Many others feel more comfortable talking over the phone or over the internet rather than face to face so this approach gives people more choice and flexibility about how and when they access our services. Telehealth enables us to connect with the person where they are – not just geographically, but where they are in their mindset when it comes to accessing treatment and keeping to their treatment plan."

All the information entered into users’ HomePods is fed back to a secure centralised system monitored by a trained telehealth therapist. The information gathered and the person’s progress is then discussed at regular video conferencing sessions, via the HomePod, between the individual and the health professional supporting their recovery. These sessions can take place at a person’s home or any other location they choose, just as long as they have an internet connection.

Innovative ways to protect vulnerable

Surrey & Borders hopes that the technology will help to improve access to mental health services by removing factors such as distance, mobility or time constraints and also reduce the number of unattended appointments. By being able to access services discreetly, people can also avoid the stigma associated with attending a mental health clinic in person.

Councillor Mel Few, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: "The county council is always looking for innovative ways to protect vulnerable adults, which is why we're more than happy to extend our funding for telehealth after it successfully helped more than 300 people in Surrey manage serious long-term conditions from home."

The success of the trial will be measured by how well people adhere to treatment, how much they engage with services and on the overall impact of the technology on health outcomes and quality of life. The Project Team will also look at whether there has been a reduction in the use of other health services such as A&E and GP visits and whether people have felt the need to use crisis services.