May 25, 2021

Helping our IBD patients

Northern Health has a world-leading, expert and rapidly growing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) service, dedicated to the patient-focused care of those with this lifelong, potentially debilitating condition, aiming to improve their quality of life and achieve disease remission.

Our IBD service is the fastest growing service in Australia, with 1,200 new patients forecast by the end of the year.

Patients with IBD have high rates of psychological morbidity, stress, depression and anxiety which can trigger and exacerbate IBD progression and symptoms.

To help patients, Victoria Teoh, Senior Clinical Health Psychologist, who has years of experience in supporting the psychological wellbeing of patients with chronic health conditions, started and led a pilot IBD Psychology Clinic with Northern Health’s Psychology Department and Gastroenterology Services.

The pilot clinic involved providing a course on psychological therapy either face-to-face or via Telehealth to Northern Health patients diagnosed with Chron’s disease or Colitis.

“The pilot found extremely high rates of anxiety, depression and/or stress in referred patients. For 80 per cent of patients, there was a direct link between stress and IBD symptom flare-up, which included exacerbation of abdominal bloating, fatigue, change in appetite, nausea and/or loose stools and diarrhoea due to stress,” Victoria said.

“After a course of therapy however, these symptoms significantly reduced with most patients reporting normal psychological function following therapy. Psychological support is central to improving patient outcomes.”

All patients felt the service had been beneficial and would recommend the service to others. About 82 per cent of patients reported that therapy had helped them to self-manage their mental and physical health and chronic disease better, and to make positive changes to their behaviours.

“Patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Victoria said.

“The IBD Psychology Clinic has also been a great example of a successful Telehealth service in a younger patient group, with the large majority choosing to receive services via phone or video.”

A patient who took part in the service said, “For the first time in three years, I am in control of my disease and not letting it control me. The way I deal with my illness now is in a much healthier way.”

World IBD was on Wednesday, 19 May.

Featured image: Victoria Teoh, Senior Clinical Health Psychologist