A look back at the IT4Anxiety mid-term conference on the 11th October 2022, in Lille (FR)

On the 11th October, the mid-term conference of the IT4Anxiety project "What are the new technologies to manage anxiety?" was organised in Lille.

The conference took place in the Nouveau Siècle, in the heart of Old Lille, and was attended by 117 participants from all over North-West Europe. The two French partners in the project, G.A.C. Group and CCOMS, were responsible for the organisation of this event in collaboration with all the partners. During the day, 25 speakers shared their experiences on the integration and use of technological innovations in mental health.

In recent years, many start-ups have emerged in Europe and are developing products or solutions for mental health, not only for patients but also for caregivers and health professionals. However, these startups are obliged to test their solutions before selling them on the market.

To do this, they must go through a number of stages, in particular through the ethics committee, which authorises access to patient cohorts. But these stages are often real obstacles.

The aim of the IT4Anxiety project is indeed to facilitate bridges between start-ups selected by mental health experts and health institutions. The participants highlighted the importance of involving mental health service users from the product design phase. The numerous testimonies also showed the difficulty for health care institutions to integrate these innovative solutions into medical protocols. While some professionals who are sensitive to new technologies may be more inclined to integrate tested and approved solutions ("mixed therapies"), the same is not true for others, either because they are reluctant to change or because they simply lack the time to train. The appropriation of technological tools by health professionals can indeed be complex, hence the interest of e-health referents in healthcare institutions. Finally, many other subjects were also addressed during the conference, such as the appropriation of digital tools by mental health service users from their homes, or the training set up by the Haute Ecole de la Province de Namur for the deployment and use of innovative solutions in health care institutions.  The day was also punctuated by demonstrations of innovative products developed by startups, notably by three winners of the hackathons organised in France and Scotland in 2022 as part of the IT4Anxiety project. The conference was also punctuated by breaks that allowed participants to discover the innovative products and solutions developed by 14 European start-ups grouped together in a mental health innovation fair.

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