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Telehealth schemes effective for depressed patients, say reseachers

Depressed patients can be effectively treated remotely, supervised by non-clinical staff, alongside usual care, research has concluded.

A study comparing outcomes for over 600 patients in treatment found that a group having access to a telehealth service had a 70% increase in treatment response, compared to a group which only had usual care.

The programme increased the likelihood that a patient’s PHQ-9 score would fall to below 10 and by at least five points after four months. The team said that the result equates to a number needed to treat of 12.

Anxiety symptoms were also found to improve in the group using the telehealth service, with patients seeing a one point improvement on their GAD-7 seven score compared to patients that had received care alone.

The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, used a telehealth service that was supervised by non-clinical staff who used scripts to give advice to participants and to direct them to online resources including CBT programmes. Participants were chosen for the study if they were over 18, had a PHQ-9 score over 10 and a confirmed diagnosis of depression.

Writing in the paper, the University of Bristol team concluded: ‘Our findings show that it is feasible and effective to provide a scalable intervention for depression delivered by non-clinically trained advisers working with computerised algorithms and encouraging people to make use of the wide range of help available from the internet.

‘Such an intervention makes it possible to substantially expand provision of care without being limited by the availability of clinically trained staff, which would help to meet the pressing need to expand services for common mental health problems.’

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