Synergy is a new e-mental health ecosystem of care for Australia’s young people, incorporating complimentary Young and Well CRC products, certified apps and web based interventions, running on an underpinning set of sector standards, digital interfaces and integrated technologies.
Australia leads the world in the provision of youth mental health services and community support, with models developed by ReachOut Australia, headspace, Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC) and beyondblue.
Research has found that an e-mental health system which takes a ‘young person-centred’ approach, providing a seamless continuum of support across both online and offline services, will provide young people with world-class care that is user-friendly, accessible and cost-effective.
The Young and Well CRC’s mission is to realise the insights of this research through innovative technologies that will create new, wider reaching, sustainable, models of care that integrate across all settings a young person interacts in, across the wide range of mental health and wellbeing needs in the population – and enable online and face-to-face services to both play to their respective strengths.
In August 2013, the Australian Government Department of Health announced a $5 million investment under which the Young and Well CRC will deliver a pilot project, consisting of three trials, to embark on fundamentally reshaping the system of care and embedding technology in Australia’s youth mental health services. This project is called Synergy.
The Synergy Ecosystem—the combination of online support and underpinning technology—enables technologies to interact and be used by young people to manage their wellbeing and mental health. Synergy positions the young person as owning, controlling and sharing their data. This data is not clinical data or a personalised electronic health record, and nor is it an e-mental health portal. Synergy uses information collected by digital technologies to enhance wellbeing, support help-seeking behaviours with service providers, and if needed facilitate clinical care and engagement with clinical services, both online and offline.
Synergy delivers the value to a broad range of settings:
- Young People and Carers: An integrated suite of online resources that can be accessed and customised, with real time data they can use and share, ensuring they only need to tell their story once
- Schools, Universities and Workplaces: Capacity to interface with organisation’s platforms and link personal (with permission) and organisation data to support wellbeing, safety and mental health
- Service Providers: Richer information and real time data, including (with permission) young people’s history and pathways through the sector, as well as a customisable and integrated toolset that reaches beyond the clinical session, so as to deliver better care and better outcomes
- Researchers: National data, standard measures and a high speed prototyping platform to trial new interventions and products
- Policy Makers: Clearer information on system use, impact and effectiveness, to better inform policy and funding
Synergy will deliver:
- ‘Say it Once’ Benefit for Young People: The ability to transfer information between services, within and between online and face-to-face services as young people transition from school to further study, employment or travel, will eliminate the need to repeat information unnecessarily and will provide more data for potentially better diagnosis. Project Synergy will also allow young people to contribute their own information about their wellbeing, which could include sleep, diet and exercise (captured via apps or biometrics). Young people will be in control of the permission setting for their information, choosing when to allow their data from one service to be shared with other services.
- Common Standards: This will entail the development of common service standards that enable a trust network between service providers, as well as common technical approaches to ensure interoperability between mental health organisations ‘behind-the-scenes,’ allowing them to share information and refer and receive users, while retaining their existing branding interface.
- Common Analytics and Algorithms: A common approach to capturing data through the use of a shared analytics will provide a better understanding of the pathways young people take between and within the range of online and face-to-face services available. Reach and utilisation of content will be measured, with data also captured to help understand an individual’s service use, as well as the impact of different interventions on their wellbeing. This information is not available at present and, when captured and analysed alongside our National Survey and other growing data banks, will inform government policy development and allow services to better tailor their approaches and work more effectively together.
- Medical, Legal and Ethical Approach: Synergy will provide new volumes and types of valuable data for researchers and service providers alike. Supporting this is a commitment to user-centred information security—strongly encrypted data storage and the establishment of service guidelines to ensure all services are compliant with medical, legal and ethical standards—to ensure young people’s information is kept private.
- Prototyping: The Young and Well CRC incubates new ideas with young people and then supports its partners across the youth and mental health sector to work with multi-disciplinary academics to fast track rapid prototyping and research exploring the use of new and emerging technologies. The Synergy e-mental health ecosystem provides the essential components for rapid prototyping of new interventions.