Lanarkshire patients supported by ‘Florence Nightingale’

The Telehealth team, led by Morag Hearty, left, are driving the use of Flo technology. Picture: Contributed
The Telehealth team, led by Morag Hearty, left, are driving the use of Flo technology. Picture: Contributed
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A GROUNDBREAKING text messaging system has been used to help 1,000 people with depression and anxiety.

The Florence Simple Telehealth text messaging system, or ‘Flo’ for short, was named after Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, for its human touch.

A short internet animation has recently brought Flo – and how it works – into sharp focus via the story of a patient called Fraser, who is living with high blood pressure. Traditionally, that means he would have had to make regular trips to his GP to have his blood pressure monitored. Now he can text his readings from home ensuring his safety and reducing the need to attend the Doctor’s surgery for routine checks.

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From healthy hearts, Flo has also been used to enhance an eight-week programme focusing on healthy minds, with the landmark figure now reached.

Diane Reilly of NHS Lanarkshire, said: “In November 2014 we introduced Beating the Blues, a computerised Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

“CBT is a psychological therapy that works on the relationships between thoughts, behaviours and feelings. CBT teaches individuals how to recognise and tackle problems, here and now rather than in the past.

“Face to face CBT has been used for many years to treat depression, but the digital therapy has enabled a much larger patient group to access this clinically proven treatment.

“Patients have been be able to access the treatment, which comes in the form of a computer based, online course, from a range of different locations such as their own home or a local library, and at a time that suits them.”

Diane added: “Flo has been used laterally to support the programme by sending a series of texts to patients.

“It sends information like reminders when a certain aspect of the therapy has to be started and encouragement when a module of the therapy has been completed.

“Flo is also being used to send recaps about key learning points of the therapy to reiterate practical steps people can take to deal depression and/or anxiety throughout the day.

“For example, Flo might send someone a message like ‘Don’t forget to do something pleasurable during the week – even if it is an effort’

Diane added: “We’ve found the programme is suitable for patients who don’t like the idea of talking therapies or prefer the anonymity which a computerised treatment offers – and that Flo has been able to enhance the package of support by offering that personalised aspect.”

Morag Hearty, programme lead for Telehealth in Lanarkshire, added: “As well as people living with depression, Flo is supporting many others with a variety of conditions feel safe, more confident in their everyday life as well as making sure people are independent where possible.

“This upward trend and awareness of the service is being supported by Fraser’s story and how Telehealth is helping him remain independent.”

You can watch Fraser’s story here: https://vimeo.com/198187123

One patient of Beating The Blues in South Lanarkshire, who preferred not to be named, said the Florence system has system has been a real boost.

“The modules have been supported by the text messaging service and it brings you a sense of comfort that you are not alone. What’s been a huge help to me is that when you are feeling down or anxious, your motivation can dwindle.

The texts reminding you to complete an online module or offering encouragement have been timely prompts for me.

“I’ve never been one to make a fuss and the anonymity of the digital therapy has been good. And having the text support is Iike having an encouraging, non judgemental friend in your corner through dark times.”

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Val de Souza, director of health and social care of South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Telehealth is a vital component of the transformation of health and care delivery.

“Telehealth can support people to feel safe and more confident in their everyday life. Importantly it promotes independence and our commitment to promote self management as much as possible.”