Development of the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards

The Commission partnered with service users, consumers, carers, families, clinicians, service providers and technical experts to develop the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health (NSQDMH) Standards. The NSQDMH Standards were officially released on 30 November 2020.

What is a digital mental health service?

In relation to the NSQDMH Standards, a digital mental health service is defined as a mental health, suicide prevention or alcohol and other drug service that uses technology to facilitate engagement and deliver care.

Although mental health, suicide prevention, and alcohol and other drug services are recognised as separate specialist sectors that provide services to often distinct cohorts, the NSQDMH Standards refer to these digital services collectively as ‘digital mental health services’.

Digital mental health services include:

  • Services that provide information
  • Digital counselling services
  • Treatment services (including assessment, triage and referral services)
  • Peer-to-peer support services.

Digital mental health services may be delivered by:

  • Telephone (including mobile phone)
  • Videoconferences
  • Online services (such as web chats)
  • SMS
  • Mobile health applications (apps).

Digital mental health services can be standalone supports that are self-managed or therapist-guided, or they can complement in-person services.

Why have the NSQDMH Standards been developed?

There is growing evidence of the importance of digital mental health services in the delivery of services to consumers, carers, families and support people.1 The Commission developed the NSQDMH Standards to help service providers ensure that the safety and quality of their digital mental health services meet the expectations of service users and their support people.

The Commission’s research and consultation has shown that service users, consumers, carers, families and support people want convenience, reliability, transparency and quality when it comes to accessing health services. They want control of decisions about their own health and access to their personal health information that supports these decisions. Service users and consumers expect their privacy to be respected and their rights protected. They expect strong safeguards to ensure their health information is safe and secure, and that their data are used only when necessary and when they choose.1

Clinicians also have a strong desire to make greater use of digital health tools and services in their work, but need assurance that the digital systems they might recommend to consumers are safe and effective. This includes keeping service users’ health information secure and private, and ensuring that health data will be used safely and appropriately to improve outcomes.2

Service providers that use the NSQDMH Standards will have systems and processes in place to reduce the risk of harm, protect privacy and increase confidence and assurance in the safety and quality of their digital mental health services. This may take time for some service providers to achieve.


  1. Titov, N., Dear, B.F, Nielssen, O., Wootton, B., Kayrouz, R., Karin, E., Genest, B., Bennett-Levy, J., Purtell, C., Bezuidenhout, G., Tan, R., Minissale, C., Thadhani, P., Webb, N., Willcock, S., Andersson, G., Hadjistavropoulos, H., Mohr, D.C., Kavanagh, D., Cross, S., Staples, L. (2020). User characteristics and outcomes from a national digital mental health service: A review of the Australian MindSpot Clinic. Lancet Digital; 2:e582-93.
  2. Australian Digital Health Agency. Australia’s National Digital Health Strategy: Safe, seamless and secure: evolving health and care to meet the needs of modern Australia. Sydney; ADHA; 2017.

Watch our NSQDMH Standards launch video

You can watch a recording of the Commission's one-hour webcast to mark the release of the NSQDMH Standards on 30 November 2020.

An expert panel led by Dr Peggy Brown AO explore how the standards will make a difference to the quality of care in the digital space. The event was hosted by Sophie Scott, award-winning ABC National Medical Reporter.