New digital solution for people living with severe mental illnesses

The pandemic has made it harder for the 430,000 and more Australians living with serious mental illnesses who are highly vulnerable to acute illness relapses when their usual routines and standard health care arrangements are disrupted.

Associate Professor Niranjan Bidargaddi is a computer engineer and e-health expert who leads the “AI-squared Automated Treatment Adherence and Care Pattern Tracking” project as part of the Digital Health CRC program. His research at Flinders University is developing and testing cloud-based real-time health applications for health records, wearable devices and applications, as well as participatory support to identify, monitor and support human health issues accurately and continuously, beyond clinics into everyday living environments to reduce risk, prevent relapses and improve health outcomes. Image Credit: Flinders University

With telehealth solutions now meeting the growing demand for mental health services in all areas, a new project led by Flinders University is targeting this most vulnerable group with a digital solution created with their unique needs in mind.

AI2 (Actionable In-time Insights) aims to change the way health care is delivered – both for better mental health service delivery and for broader chronic disease management in the community. Regular remote checks of these patients aim to reduce the number of people ending up in hospital or emergency room, adding $ 2.6 billion to hospital care costs each year.

After extensive research and testing, AI2 The software model is now deployed in Adelaide and South Australia in partnership with public mental health services linked to the local health networks of South Adelaide, North Adelaide, Central Adelaide, Barossa Fleurieu and Adelaide Hills, as well as Digital State Government Health SA.

The project is led by Flinders University Associate Professor Niranjan Bidargaddi, who says the current surveillance, management and treatment of chronic mental illness in different parts of the health system is poorly coordinated and inadequate.

“In Australia, approximately 600,000 people live with chronic mental illness with multiple morbidities,” says Bidargaddi, associate professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health, an expert in human-centered digital computer systems.

“Once a patient requests an initial consultation with a clinician, they can be given a diagnosis, a mental health care plan, and then they are sent instructions for treatment, such as taking medication or trying to. therapeutic techniques. The multiple medical appointments and ongoing medications are difficult for patients to manage.

“The problem is, most clinicians don’t have the resources to manually track every patient. This can lead to patient relapse and potentially hospitalization. “

Some estimates suggest that more than 80% of patients with severe mental illness will relapse several times in the first five years of their initial treatment.

In the latest trial, funded by the $ 200 million National Digital Health CRC with participants Flinders Uni, SA Health and goAct, mental health services will be transformed to identify and target remote and timely interventions. for mental health patients who may be facing gaps in care, and potentially at increased risk of relapse.

Notably, AI squared software will be enhanced to algorithmically analyze integrated healthcare interaction data from My Health Record and electronic health records, to flag gaps in care and support. push interventions.

CRC Digital Health CEO Dr Terry Sweeney said the Flinders University project is vital research to bring digital technologies to the forefront of mental health care.

Our new operations in South Australia will expand our work with world-class research partners, working with Flinders and our other local and national partners to make an impact on the community and the economy. “

Dr Terry Sweeney, CEO, Digital Health CRC

The tools and resources developed in this project will enable mental health services to remotely record mental health patients and ensure they receive the continuum of care in the community. The program will help people with serious and long-lasting mental illnesses who lack self-confidence or access the internet or smart technologies, adds associate professor Bidargaddi.

The tool was previously tested in an eight-month trial involving 304 seriously mentally ill patients at a Gawler community mental health clinic to set up interventions, such as medication reviews or adherence aids, to prevent deterioration or relapse of their condition. The results of this trial published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry suggest that digital automated monitoring is feasible and that the program could be integrated into clinical workflows in mental health services without overburdening health practitioners.

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