Hi Sabine. We’re so excited to catch up with you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today, we know how busy you are.
We’re now 4 months into the year. What are you most excited about from what Psyomics are working on this year?
“It’s an incredibly exciting time for Psyomics. The first clinical implementation of Censeo, our online mental health assessment platform, began in January. The platform is being used by a GP surgery to provide an easily accessible, in-depth assessment to patients with mental health concerns. A separate, second implementation trial also launched just a few weeks ago. So this year will really be about evaluating the platform we have built in clinical settings and looking at how we can develop the platform further to support GPs and get patients to the right treatment and support more quickly.
“With everything that has happened in the past year regarding the pandemic, we feel – even more than before – that what we’re doing is very important. The impact that the pandemic has had on mental health is profound and that makes our mission to enable an early and accurate mental health diagnosis all the more urgent.”
As a psychiatrist, can you tell us a little more about how Censeo mirrors a psychiatric assessment and why this is important?
“A full psychiatric assessment is the gold standard when it comes to assessing a patient’s mental health and reaching a diagnosis. This type of assessment would normally take between one and one-and-a-half hours. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough psychiatrists to offer this kind of assessment to everybody who could benefit from it. Waiting lists are long and psychiatrists generally only see the most serious cases.
“Our goal in developing Censeo was to digitise the in-depth assessment a psychiatrist would carry out so that it can be made available at an early stage of the illness, not just once symptoms have developed into something more severe.
“Censeo is built using the same clinical frameworks used by psychiatrists. The platform holds over 1,700 questions, but the key factor is the way these questions are used. We’ve developed sophisticated algorithms that adapt to the patients responses, guiding them through the assessment and asking relevant follow-up questions to build a really comprehensive understanding of their mental health.
What do you think are the main areas of mental health diagnosis and management where Censeo can have a real impact?
“The GP is often the first point of contact for someone with mental health concerns, and I think GPs are really faced with a very difficult task. A GP has, on average, five to seven minutes to see a patient and provide a diagnosis. Many mental health conditions present with overlapping or intermittent symptoms, so reaching the right diagnosis in that short time is difficult, if not impossible.
“Bipolar disorder is a really good example. Most bipolar patients initially present with symptoms of depression, and it’s very difficult for a GP, in the time available, to determine if this is a so-called unipolar depressive disorder or a depressive episode in the context of bipolar disorder. Consequently, misdiagnoses and delayed diagnoses are common. In the UK, it takes an average of 12 years for someone with bipolar disorder to receive a correct diagnosis.
“It’s so important that patients with mental health challenges receive the right diagnosis and get the right help early, as delayed or incorrect treatment can lead to a serious escalation in symptoms and ultimately poorer outcomes. That’s where I believe Censeo will have a huge impact.
“Our goal is not to deliver online therapy, but to help medical professionals reach the right diagnosis and direct patients to the right mental health support for their specific condition. It’s important to note that Censeo also covers a range of milder psychiatric concerns. There are many people visiting their GP, who may not have a clinical psychiatric disorder but have problems with low mood, anxiety or stress-related symptoms. Censeo provides personalised psychoeducation for self-help and can help by sign-posting patients to appropriate sources of support in their local area.”
You founded Psyomics in 2015 with the vision of improving diagnosis in psychiatric disorders. What were the main drivers behind that vision?
“From the outset, our goal has been to reduce the time it takes for anyone experiencing mental health concerns to get an accurate diagnosis. If we can get patients onto the right treatment pathway earlier, that will make a huge difference to the outcome.
“Another important motivation was the wish to really make a difference for GPs and the health service. We saw a way to reduce pressure on primary care services by offering a much more comprehensive, digital assessment that will allow a clinician to better utilise their time and, by helping them reach the right diagnosis or management plan, will allow treatment and resources to be used in a more efficient and effective way.
“We also wanted to make specialised psychiatric expertise more widely available – more accessible, if you like. If we can use technology to implement in-depth psychiatric assessments within primary care, this has the potential to transform the way mental health care is delivered.”
We would love to hear a bit more about your research at Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research. Your lab have been instrumental in the development of Censeo. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Delta Trial and how that has been used to improve Censeo?
“The Delta Trial was the first large-scale trial of the digital assessment platform that was to become Censeo. The focus of the trial was on improving the detection and differential diagnosis of bipolar disorder and depression, which is a key area of research for CCNR.
“The trial involved over 3,500 participants and was an important step. The data that came out of it, as well as the feedback from participants, allowed Psyomics to refine and improve the platform and subsequently expand the range of conditions it can diagnose and screen for.”
What are some of the most noticeable differences to the way mental health conditions are diagnosed today in comparison to 20 years ago, when you first started your research surrounding mental health disorders?
Unfortunately, neither the diagnosis nor the treatment of psychiatric conditions has changed much over the last 20 years and even beyond. One possible positive effect of the pandemic may have been the acceleration of e-medicine applications and remote consultations. We hope that Censeo will be one of the new e-medicine applications which will have a positive impact of mental healthcare delivery.
What, in your opinion, are the main areas of mental health assessment and management that all healthcare providers should be thinking about going forward?
“In the future, there will be a great need for mental health services to embrace technology because there are not enough psychiatrists and mental health professionals for all the people who have mental health concerns.
“Today, up to 40% of people who come to see a GP have mental health concerns. It is a growing challenge for GPs to address this clinical need”
“Our ultimate aim is to provide personalised recommendations, and put control into the hands of those seeking help and advice.”
For more information about Psyomics and our product, Censeo, click here.