Digital mental health services have seen significant growth in Australia over the past decade.
In response to this growing demand, and in an attempt to offer new and innovative ways for consumers and carers to access services they require, the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (Commission) has prepared draft National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards (National Standards).
What is a Digital Mental Health Service?
A digital mental health service is a mental health, suicide prevention, or alcohol and other drugs service that uses technology to facilitate engagement and the delivery of care.
This includes information, digital counselling, treatment, and peer to peer support services delivered by telephone, videoconference, websites, SMS, websites and mobile applications.
The primary aim of the draft National Standards is to improve the quality of digital mental health service provision and to protect service users from harm.
There are three draft National Standards:
- Clinical and Technical Governance Standard – which relates to safety and quality systems and ensuring a safe environment (including addressing privacy and security obligations and stability of digital systems) which are required to maintain and improve the reliability, safety and quality of digital mental health care and improve health outcomes.
- Partnering with Consumers Standard – which relates to the systems and strategies to create a person-centred digital mental health system by including service users in shared decision making and ensuring service users are involved in the development and design of quality digital mental health care.
- Model of Care Standard – which relates to the processes for developing and delivering digital mental health services, minimising harm to service users and recognising and responding to acute deterioration in mental state.
Each of the draft Standards include a statement of intent, explanatory notes, and actions that describe what is required to meet the Standard.
The Commission has made it clear that the National Standards have been drafted to apply to service providers, that is, organisations who make digital mental health services available to service users such as patients and their support persons. As such, service providers will need to work closely with developers of digital mental health services in relation to the design, development and delivery of their products to service users.
Public consultations were planned for March and April 2020 however, noting recent public health developments, these consultative forums will now be held online.
The Commission is seeking feedback on the draft National Standards from consumers, carers, clinicians, service providers, developers and any other interested stakeholders. If you are interested in providing feedback, you can submit your comments through an online survey via the Commission’s website, by email or by mail.
The Commission intends to provide the final draft National Standards to the Commonwealth Department of Health for approval in June 2020.
The draft National Standards, and their implementation at the appropriate time, will require significant input from clinicians, service providers and users to ensure all parties are appropriately involved in the care which is provided.
It is important for clinicians and service providers to remember that the extent of the strategies required to meet the National Standards will be determined by the size, risk to service users and the complexity of the digital mental health services which are offered by the clinician or service provider.
Now more than ever the need for National Standards is acute with the global COVID-19 pandemic illustrating the urgent demand for digital mental health services in Australia.
This article was written by Karen Keogh, Partner and Patricia Marinovic, Senior Associate.