Mobile technology health solutions for patients with severe mental illness: a feasibility pilot RCT East London NHS Foundation Trust

  • A project run by (ELFT).
  • Being implemented with 65 service users with severe mental illness receiving care from community mental health teams in Newham, London.
  • Involves the use of an interactive text messaging system to improve the quality of routine care, by fostering self-management and timely communication between patients and clinicians.

Severe mental illness is associated with significant costs to the NHS and current routine appointment systems are not adequate for the care needs of these patients. A high percentage of people with these conditions have poor outcomes, including social isolation and poor quality of life.

This project is testing the benefits of an enhanced community care intervention, using an interactive text message-based system called ‘Flo’. ‘Flo’ works by sending patients personalised health tips and reminders about appointments/medication. Patients can also send messages alerting staff to any unmet needs. It aims to foster self-management and timely communication between patients and clinicians, improving treatment adherence and reducing relapse rates.

Of the 65 patients participating, 28 of 36 participants randomised into the treatment arm have been successfully enrolled on ‘Flo’. 29 participants were randomised into the control arm. As at September 2017, 21 follow-up assessments have been completed. So far, 60% of ‘Flo’ users have opted to continue using it beyond the research project, and this is being facilitated where possible. 77% of control group participants requested the opportunity to try ‘Flo’, and careful consideration is being given to this. Training in ‘Flo’ is being offered to clinicians.

Impact

Initial feedback from ‘Flo’ users (still subject to more analysis) shows:

  • Many users have found the medication reminders helpful.
  • Some users felt it made them feel less alone, or that it had helped them to feel cared for or better connected to their care team.

‘Flo’ was developed at NHS Stoke-on-Trent in 2010 and is used in over 70 UK health and social care settings. This is the first time it is being systematically tested with patients who have severe mental illness. The project has been extended until March 2018.

Watch a short film on 'Flo'

Contact details

For further information about the project, please email Professor Frank Röhricht, Consultant Psychiatrist and Associate Medical Director for Research, Innovation and Service Development, East London NHS Foundation Trust.

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