Heather D. Hadjistavropoulos

University of Regina

Improving patient access to internet cognitive behaviour therapy for depression and anxiety: Overcoming barriers and fostering innovation

Heather D. Hadjistavropoulos"We are truly very appreciative of the funding from HRF.  This funding is allowing us to conduct research on how to best improve access to treatment for depression and anxiety using the Internet. Depression and anxiety are highly prevalent, disabling conditions that are often under treated. Without funding, it is very difficult to develop and research innovative novel treatments that can overcome barriers to treatment and improve the health care delivery system."

Depression and anxiety are prevalent, disabling, and undertreated conditions. Research shows therapist-assisted Internet-Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (ICBT) is efficacious for these conditions. This involves patients reviewing several sessions of psychoeducation over the Internet followed by therapist contact via e-mail.

Despite major advantages of the internet (e.g., accessibility, convenience), very few patients have access to ICBT in clinical practice in Canada. Some notable barriers to implementing ICBT in clinical practice include:

  1. informing patients about the nature of ICBT;
  2. efficiently screening patients for ICBT; and
  3. being able to concurrently treat anxiety and or depression in a brief period of time and to flexibly deliver ICBT either as part of stepped care, an alternate to face-to-face care, or an adjunct to face-to-face care.

This research will have a substantive impact on how ICBT is ultimately financed, organized, managed, and delivered in Saskatchewan. The results are expected to be informative more broadly across Canada. The research will inform decision makers about the extent to which barriers to implementing ICBT can be overcome and provide valuable information on factors that facilitate and constrain routine use of ICBT in clinical practice. 

In 2019, the Health Research Foundation (HRF) of Innovative Medicines Canada will award two (2) research Fellowships in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) Health Research in its impact on health care in Canada.