National Mental Health Reform Conference

Making It Work
15th & 16th November 2016 Sydney

Criterion Conferences staged the National Mental Health Reform Conference in Sydney on the 15 & 16 November. ConNetica Senior Consultant Susan Barron Hamilton chaired the two-day event. The event was supported by Helping Minds (an organisation that supports families and carers), and VisiCase (innovators in web based care management solutions). 

PHN and other health care organisation speakers shared their reform plans, change management experiences, process learnings, and the barriers and challenges experienced as they navigate the transformation terrain. PHN speakers talked about finding their feet, the nature and process of undertaking broad community engagement, scoping, consulting, co-design work and the challenge of balancing action research methodology approach in a climate of ambiguity. 

Collective impact is the approach of choice and it is beginning to reap rewards in building common agendas, shared visions and inform and shape agreed plans of action. This has identified the need for reliable intel about how health is managed in a region, good data, mechanisms, 360-degree measurement of performance at all levels of health service delivery, to better inform what is working and what’s not. Key to these activities is to be able to look at the space between the data and the evidence as this is often where the gaps are - All essential to inform commissioning. 
In response to the Government’s commitment to invest $30m over 3 years in trials that support the transformation of e-mental health and other digital services, particularly in regional or geographically defined areas. Kery papers addressed this issue and the role of the PHNs. 

John Mendoza led the delegates in a vibrant and informative discussion about the vision for better mental health, suicide prevention and reform. He presented on the application of the Integrated Atlas of Health (developed by Professor Luis Salvador Carulla and colleagues at Sydney University) which captures detailed information on social and demographic characteristics and health-related needs, as well as data on services availability and care capacity. The atlas will allow comparison between small health areas, highlighting variations of care, and detecting gaps in the provision of services. Within this context, atlases of health are essential tools for decision making, quality assessment and informing commissioning. 

Jane Burns (Sydney University, Young and Well Digital) presented the digital platform “Synergy”, and demonstrated its e-mental health ecosystem of complementary products, quality certified apps and e- tools aligned to a common set of standards, integrations, interfaces and technologies. Synergy takes a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing, with touch points across the mental health promotion and prevention intervention spectrum, from wellbeing through to help-seeking and clinical care. It provides young people and veterans with the ability to connect with digital data captured through different apps and interactions with various services, and to enable them to analyse and use this information to help manage their mental health and wellbeing. The product is in the process of being expanded to meet the needs of other population groups. ConNetica has been involved with Synergy since the start and is working on Trial 3 at present. 

Susan Barron-hamilton followed up the launch of ConNetica’s new Integrated Systems Training Package, which took place at the preconference workshop, by introducing a new integration model to delegates as a comprehensive solution to sustainable integration of the whole health system which, historically, has a tendency to pull apart into silos. 

Over the two days, speakers and participants engaged in a sincere, frank, open and honest discussion of the current strain on the acute mental health sector and some of the new ways they are approaching demand management, including the increased use of technology, and looking for clinical specialist co- location opportunities in host NGOs. 

It is clear that ‘making it work” is going to be a long, hard, complex road. If there was ever a time in Australian health care history where the burden of change is dependent on the health workforce to carry the reform agenda to success – this is it.