AREAS OF IMPACT
Mental health is a growing challenge for the Australian health system with increasing numbers of people identifying as needing treatment or related services.
Within this context digital mental health services offer a significant opportunity. Evidence shows that interventions provided digitally can be as effective as face-to-face services for many people, providing benefits such as additional access, scale and anonymity.
But an emerging web of digital services in this space is not without risk. Amid a proliferating flurry of websites, apps, claims and capabilities how might we ensure that mental health services accessed online are reliable, helpful and cause no harm?
The landscape for digital mental health services is poorly integrated and rapidly evolving, with new models, technologies and market entrants.
Health professionals and consumers find it difficult to navigate this complex and continuously evolving landscape, and to find and choose relevant services.
There is currently no certification process or agreed standards for DMHS to set expectations for industry or government or to help consumers navigate and identify the right service
There is growing consensus among all stakeholders that such a quality certification framework is needed and desired.
ThinkPlace was engaged by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care to design and facilitate a series of consultation workshops.
The purpose was to understand the views of a broad cross-section of the Australian mental health ecosystem on the topic of Digital Mental Health Services.
We wanted to find out what the sector needed from a national framework to guide the development and assessment of digital mental health services.
How we did it
We engaged more than 180 consumers, carers, clinicians, academics, service providers and developers across Australia to understand their perspectives on topics such as:
Certification priorities and risks (general and by service type/channel)
Consumer and carer awareness and confidence
Governance and system integrity
When carrying out discovery with users who access mental health services digitally it is likely that at least some of them would prefer to be engaged in this same way.
ThinkPlace designed a discussion paper and mixed-method approach for engagement, involving both face-to-face workshops and online-webinars.
These webinars combined an innovative blend of video-conferencing and text-engagement platforms to ensure a wider reach across urban, regional and remote areas. They also served to provide accessible avenues for engagement to those unwilling, or unable to attend face-to-face sessions.
The use of an online collaboration platform as a key element of the engagement ensured that those who were less comfortable engaging in real time, or face-to-face had a structured and collaborative way of discussing issues and contribution their feedback, thoughts and ideas.
This work ensures that the landscape for digital mental health services in Australia will be changed forever.
ThinkPlace produced a comprehensive report detailing risks, opportunities and considerations for a national certification framework and approach to assessment of digital mental health services.
And that report was firmly grounded in a comprehensive view of the needs of consumers, health practitioners, policy and developers.
The report is now a key input in the development of a desirable, robust and trusted framework to ensure that digital health services developed for Australians have a quality framework guiding their use.