A recent survey indicates that only 33% of the UK’s National Health Service Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (NHS CAMHS) implement digital mental health therapeutics despite a dramatic increase in child and adolescent emotional issues triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey, conducted by BfB Labs, also shows that 45% of NHS CAMHS believe digital therapeutics can help provide successful early intervention, yet 64% of CAMHS refer their young patients to an online resource rather than utilizing a digital option for intervention.

England’s Centre for Mental Health recently estimated that about 15% of the nation’s children will need support for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and other mental health difficulties over the next several years. Young people with existing mental health conditions and those without previous diagnoses will likely require new services due to the COVID-19 crisis.

BfB Labs, a leader in evidence-based digital therapeutics for children and teens, cites limited digital literacy as a primary barrier to the the adoption of digital interventions. The survey results suggest that an improved understanding of the scalability, remote access, and around-the-clock availability of regulated digital therapeutics can promote the more widespread use of digital therapeutics.

The NHS Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI) hosts competitions for small businesses to develop innovative solutions for NHS challenges such as the need for increased mental health support for children and adolescents. SBRI funded the development of Lumi Nova, BfB Labs’ mobile game for pediatric anxiety disorders. Lumi Nova recently received approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Although the NHS has already identified increased adoption of digital health tools as necessary for improving care for children and young people, a lack of clinical verification also impacts the widespread integration of digital solutions in CAHMS. The BfB Labs survey may cast more light on the need for digital innovation in children’s mental health care, spurring an increase in research and development. That would help more evidence-based options reach the market in time to benefit roughly 1.5 million young people with an immediate need for early intervention.