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Tuesday, 11 May 2021 11:20

Black Dog Institute and SAS optimising mental health hub for frontline workers


The Black Dog Institute's mental health platform tailored to frontline healthcare workers - TEN - was built with the analytical power of SAS and has reached 33,000 Australian healthcare professionals. However, its continued funding now rests on the result of the 2021-22 federal budget.

COVID-19 has hit everyone hard, and frontline healthcare workers are no exception, with relentless demands and pressures affecting their mental wellbeing in their professional and personal life. As part of its $74 million package to support the mental and health and wellbeing of all Australians, the Commonwealth Department of Health funded the Black Dog Institute to develop an online support platform tailored to these workers. This was released as The Essential Network, or TEN.

TEN providers tools and resources to frontline healthcare workers helping them cope with, and manage, stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. TEN was launched in two weeks, in its first iteration, and has since reached 33,000 healthcare professionals Australia-wide.

The Black Dog Institute drew upon the research of Australian health professionals showing more than 50% were worried about contracting COVID-19, and 80% were concerned for their loved ones. Elevated psychological distress rates, and reports of depression, anxiety and stress higher than expected, meant the platform had to be rolled out swiftly and efficiently.

The platform was optimised based on informed insights from SAS' customer intelligence and cloud platforms, user consultation and the project’s wider partner community.

Dr Simon Judkins, Director of Emergency Medicine said, “as a doctor of over 25 years and having worked as an Emergency Physician for 20 of those, I’m acutely aware of my own mental wellbeing and of those around me, however, this hasn’t always been the case. As healthcare professionals, we default to putting the health and wellbeing of others before our own and will often find little time to prioritise ourselves. We don’t seek help until we feel we really need it, or until family, friends or colleagues strongly encourage it ... even then we find it difficult to ask for help.

“Personally, I've found the TEN platform really helpful and easily accessible. With self-management tools, tips for having conversations with colleagues, as well as options for telehealth sessions – it’s an all-encapsulating platform which gives us the tailored support we need.”

Nicole Cockayne, Director Strategy and Operations, Black Dog Institute said “our existing partnership with SAS was a significant contributor in ensuring we met the tight project deadline. As an organisation, they are agile, fast-moving and provide the essential knowledge and insights we require to develop solutions that not only work but are effective and maintain their relevance due to their focus on continuous improvement through informed insights.

“Following the initial stages of the project, working with SAS was crucial in prioritising the ongoing direction of the project, and specifically which channel – out of the mobile app and online website – we should continue investing in.

“With significantly higher traffic on the website and lower demand for telehealth interactions, we quickly realised users were looking to leverage the website for self-management tools and resources. We have since relaunched a new and improved version of the TEN online website in response to this, with more than 40 additional resources added, based on user engagements,” continued Cockayne.

TEN saw an uptake of over 10,000 users in its first two months, growing to 33,000 in its first 10 months. The platform was re-launched in March 2021 and experienced a 500% spike in click-throughs to the self-help resources and online assessments.

The SAS customer intelligence technology products SAS 360 Discover, SAS 360 Engage, and SAS Viya consistently ensured the platform focused on the resources users were seeking and engaging with.

SAS turned insights into actionable outcomes for the project, including highlighting new and updated resources and leveraging A/B user experience testing.

Lynette Clunies-Ross, Region Vice President, SAS Australia and New Zealand said, “we are proud to work with Black Dog Institute on such an important initiative for our frontline healthcare workers, and it is really encouraging to have the Federal Government recognise mental health as a priority and invest in the digital transformation of our health sector. Our SAS platform is designed to augment and enable the capabilities and services of the Black Dog Institute and its partners in support of frontline health workers. It’s great to see professionals across the services spectrum drawing insights about the effectiveness of TEN in real-time and making quick decisions to fine-tune their offerings. The platform is truly designed by medical professionals, for medical professionals.”

Continued Government investment in the platform will be determined following this week’s 2021-22 Federal Budget. With frontline healthcare workers some of the hardest hit throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the continued rollout of the vaccine, the platform and its resources are in high demand.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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