A single door to mental health services in Finland A single door to mental health services in Finland

Digital Health
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connected health
mental health A single door to mental health services in Finland

Finnish mental healthcare has taken a big step towards digitalization with an online service called Mental Hub. A comprehensive array of mental health services can now be accessed from anywhere in the country through a single online portal.

Ten years ago Professor Grigori Joffe and his colleagues in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa began planning a new online mental health service. Back then, patients were sometimes bounced somewhat haphazardly among traditional mental health services, and online information on mental health was sporadic and disorganized. Furthermore, the growing demand for psychotherapy could not be met due to a shortage of therapists and money.

“We needed one door through which both patients and professionals could access the system easily. We started the project by bringing together mental health and substance abuse service professionals from our own hospital district – from the public and private as well as the third sector. Patient contribution was also important. This created a basis for the service path and the first version of Mental Hub. Later on, Mental Hub was multiplied to other hospital districts in collaboration with local professionals. Inclusion, discussion and co-creation were in a central role in the project,” says Professor Joffe.

While Mental Hub’s model is universal, some of its content is created regionally. In the heart of the service is an automatic symptom navigator, which directs users to appropriate local services. This feature, along with the comprehensive nature of the service, makes Mental Hub unique. Mental Hub also offers a service finder, extensive information on mental health, as well as self-help guides and programs. In the future, the service will set up moderated peer groups, which users can access with a personal code. Mental Hub’s content is scientifically verified and user-friendly.

For mental healthcare professionals, Mental Hub offers education, consultation and development opportunities as well as various tools for measuring mental health.

Accessible and affordable online therapy

Mental Hub also brings together patients and professionals through computer-assisted cognitive behavioral online therapy, available for a number of psychiatric disorders. Patients can access therapy independently anytime and from anywhere, while their personal therapist monitors their development and supports them.

“It used to be rather difficult to get access to therapy – you had to be quite ill. But therapy yields best results in mild and moderate disorders, which have traditionally been treated with medication in public primary healthcare. Now primary healthcare practitioners are able to refer these patients directly to online therapy in Mental Hub, which improves the general mental health of the population with a minimal financial input. Therapy has become more accessible and affordable, and the overall need can finally be met,” says Grigori Joffe.

Excellent initial results

Mental Hub is now an operational part of the Finnish mental healthcare and substance abuse work, and has been well received by both patients and professionals. Its initial results are very good, citizens find the service personalized and helpful, and professionals are keen to use it. Mental Hub’s interface is simple and intuitive, and Professor Joffe expects both its general popularity as well as its popularity among senior citizens to increase in the future. For mental healthcare professionals, the service saves time and offers better work flexibility.

Mental health services are a forerunner field in the digitalization of healthcare, as they don’t require samples, physical procedures or equipment. However, Mental Hub’s concept is currently being expanded to somatic healthcare as well. The Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa is building a virtual hospital, which will include various Hubs in addition to Mental Hub, for example Children’s Hub, Rare Disease Hub and Weight Management Hub.

Mental Hub’s unique platform can also be used in other fields, such as education or social work. It can easily be copied to other countries, just as it was expanded to a national level in Finland.

“Mental disorders, particularly depression, are likely to continue increasing in industrialized countries. According to estimates, they will surpass cancer and cardiovascular diseases by 2030 due to escalating work requirements, rapid change and the general restlessness of life. This is why we need to make mental healthcare accessible and affordable. It is crucially important to address mental health disorders at an early stage, for patients’ sake but also to prevent healthcare costs from getting out of hand,” says Professor Joffe.

Further information:

Grigori Joffe,
Professor, Medical Director
Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa

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