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17 January 2018updated 05 Oct 2023 8:22am

Mobilising mental health

There are many advantages to community-based assessment teams and electronic patient records when treating mental health conditions.

By Simon Wright

X-ray. Steel knees. Pacemakers. For decades technology has blazed a trail in the furthering of physical wellbeing. Now, innovative providers of cutting-edge mental healthcare are harnessing its limitless potential to drive up care quality, and ultimately save lives.

Life for all of us can be hectic and fast-paced. Work, family, and the highs and lows of everyday life present a range of challenges most of us take in our stride. But sadly – for people with a mental health issue – life can go suddenly, and badly, wrong.

For the majority, episodes of crisis occur in the community. Drug and counselling regimes are, by their very nature, tools that more often contribute positively to the management of mental health conditions rather than provide a permanent cure. When, for whatever reason, those regimes falter, for many timely help can be too inaccessible to prevent a serious outcome.

Digital technology is being used increasingly to help vulnerable service users in one area of the United Kingdom. At Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, technology is being used increasingly to try and help frontline clinicians respond to crisis right where it’s happening. Here, the use of tablets and smartphones is being explored to help specialist community-based teams assess mentally ill and vulnerable people on the street, and in a host of other challenging environments and locations.

Members of this Street Triage Team – who buddy with police officers – are connected permanently to the Trust’s Electronic Patient Record (EPR), giving them secure, 24/7 access to all the information they need to embark on the appropriate course of action, from identifying missed medication and outpatient appointments, to benefitting from potentially critical risk assessments. Not only is on-the-spot delivery of care driving up the quality of clinical outcomes, but the service users in question often avoid an inappropriate encounter with the criminal justice system – improving their experience of care.

For those people in the most acute need, this is significant. “When you witness it first hand, it’s easy to understanding the dramatic impact that real, meaningful digitisation can have on 21st century healthcare,” says the Trust’s director of IT Karl Goatley. “But, for the NHS, delivering it can be really difficult. With money tighter than ever before, there’s a risk that investment in IT comes lower down on the priority list. But at Sussex Partnership, it’s seen as a fundamental part of continuously improving care for patients, families and communities. It isn’t just about going paperless per se – it’s about digitisation of those paper records. We plan to integrate our systems and share information which is critical to quality patient care, across both health and social care settings. We are maximising the power of digital technology in order to do things better. One of our values at Sussex Partnership is ‘embracing change’, which involves being bold, innovative and disciplined about making use of our resources to continuously improve. That’s the essence of our transformational IT programme.”

And that’s the thing about technology and healthcare: together, they have always been a fusion of boldness and innovation (as well as lots of vision, skill and application).

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s digital strategy is powered by Daisy Group, the UK’s leading IT, communications and cloud services provider.

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