Illustration of digital devices

Researchers from MindTech have identified the top 10 questions that people with mental health problems, their carers and healthcare professionals want answered about how digital technology can help in treatment and management.

The work has been carried out by the NIHR MindTech MedTech Co-operative based at the Institute of Mental Health, with priority setting partnership specialist, the James Lind Alliance.

The study, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, will help to solve some difficult conundrums about how digital technology can best and most safely be used to help people with mental health problems.

There are many big ideas emerging about how digital technology can be used for mental health. This ranges from the use of smartphone apps and online support groups for self-management, virtual reality to treat paranoia and phobias and even the use of virtual and robot therapists.  However, research in this area is in its infancy.

The Top 10 priority questions produced by the research are all unique but fall into three overarching themes:

  • Where and when in the care pathway should digital technology be combined with face-to-face care for the best outcomes?
  • Who do digital technology solutions reach?
  • Are digital interventions safe and as good as current standard treatments?

Prof Chris Hollis, Clinical Director of MindTech, said: “This is the first priority-setting exercise for research on digital mental health that has had people with lived experience and clinicians at the heart. We will now be working with funders to ensure that future research is focused on answering these questions, so that the potential of digital technology for mental health can be fully realised.”

The research involved engagement with more than 600 people with mental health problems, carers and medical professionals. They submitted around 1,350 questions about digital technology in mental healthcare by a variety of methods, including online discussions and face-to-face workshops. These were condensed down firstly to a top 26, before the top 10 were decided on at a final workshop in London.

The ten priority ‘MindTech’ questions will be vital to the design and direction of future research in the field of mental health across the UK in the years to come. The research team believes the system will help forge a more focused approach to the use of digital technologies for mental healthcare, more tailored to the needs of patients and those who care for and treat them.

For more information about the project, and to discover the Top 10 questions, please visit www.mindtech.org.uk/digitalmhq