Mental Health Data – Visualising the Invisible

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Here at Connexica we’ve talked a lot about the importance of data within healthcare over the past few months. We’ve looked at how CCGs can benefit from data analytics software, how IoT and big data can improve our health, and even how using data to prevent physical health conditions can reduce pressure on the NHS.

Yet it would seem that we have been neglecting a significant division – an area of healthcare that has also been neglected by this country and its politicians and its service providers – that of mental health.
The BBC have recently published findings from the mental health taskforce report that found people with mental health problems to have been ‘stigmatised and marginalised,’ and further admits that services for mental health in the UK have been ‘underfunded for decades.’

Figures support these statements. Funding for mental health in England between 2013-14 and 2014-15 fell by 2%, despite the fact that funding for hospital trusts climbed by 2.6%. The report concluded unapologetically by stating that ‘the human cost is unacceptable and the financial cost to government and society is unsustainable.’

This month has consequently seen the Prime Minister pledge an extra £1bn to mental health services across the country, claiming that more than one million people will receive the treatment and help that they desperately need each year by 2021.

The lack of change resulting from similar promises in the past has led to some natural scepticism. According to the Independent, Professor Simon Wessely (president of the Royal College of Psychiatric) has warned that it will take ‘sustained work’ to end the ‘decades of inequality’ between mental and physical health services.’

Yet we can’t deny that there has been a shift in the winds regarding mental health over the past couple of years. Even if there have yet to be tangible changes in terms of funding or services – and sceptics of Cameron’s funding announcement are quick to point this out – there has at least been a great rise in awareness and education. Attitudes towards those with mental health issues have been improving and there is a recognised commitment to change.

And tangible changes are set to take place in the near future as well.

The mental health taskforce report made 59 recommendations, all of which ‘suggest a determination to shake up all aspects of mental health care.’ Simon Stevens recently introduced waiting time targets for mental health where they had previously only existed for physical health treatment. By 2020, at least 70,000 more children and young people should have access to high quality treatment.

How can mental health data help?

We love data. The possibilities it creates are endless – data can help predict the onset of diabetes or heart disease before they become fatal; it can tell us whether we will need to carry an umbrella tomorrow or grab the sun tan lotion. Data can, most importantly, educate and inform us. With access to the right data at the right time, the right people can make informed decisions that can save lives.

Can data help in the shift towards mental health? We think so.

Connexica recently partnered with Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a trust with an emphasis on mental healthcare. The challenges for Surrey and Borders revolved around the sheer amount of data being collected on a daily basis and how best to tackle it.

Dr Helen Rostill, Director of Innovation and Development for the trust, has said that ‘CXAIR offers us a wide range of benefits and will allow us to gain greater commercial insights into the operation of the Trust. It will enable us to analyse research, innovation and service transformation, and give us detailed benchmarking insight against peers, allowing us to therefore improve our service of care.’

And this isn’t the only way that data can help mental health issues – presenting the findings of such data in visually appealing ways, such as in the infographics above, can help us to quite literally see the effect and the extent of illnesses that are otherwise invisible.

Business Intelligence software such as our own CXAIR allows you to take raw data, structured or unstructured, and to turn it into meaningful visualisations in the form of infographics, dashboards or Venn diagrams. The information becomes easy to process and allows us to quickly see the bigger picture. In a digital age where we expect information at our fingertips, this software is essential.

Due to David Cameron’s pledge and investment into the issue, the challenges of improving the service of mental healthcare in the UK are now very much under the spotlight. There are great expectations for these services over the next few years and the stakes are higher than ever –

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