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Partnerships with consumers, carers and families in health care are integral to the development, implementation and evaluation of health policies, programs and services. Service providers should ensure that these partnerships underpin the delivery of their digital mental health services.
Effective partnerships exist when people are treated with dignity and respect, information is shared with them, and participation and collaboration in healthcare processes are encouraged and supported to the extent that people choose.8
Delivering care that is based on partnerships provides many benefits for service users and their support people, and service provider organisations. Effective partnerships, a positive experience for service users, and high-quality health care and improved safety are linked.
Achieving effective partnerships when health care is delivered by digital means can occur at three levels9:
- At the individual level, partnership with the service user is demonstrated through the delivery of respectful care and the provision of information relevant to their care. Service users and, where appropriate, their support people should be encouraged and assisted to participate in their own care and self-management, and engaged in making decisions and planning care, to the extent that they choose. This form of partnership is not reliant on the service user engaging with any specific individual in the service, rather it is evidenced in the way the service engages with the service user.
- At the level of a digital mental health service, partnerships relate to the participation of service users, consumers, carers, families and support people in the planning, design, monitoring and evaluation of the digital mental health service and any changes in the service. Engaging with service users and their support people in the design of digital mental health services is essential to maximise the usability and accessibility of the service.
- At the level of the service provider, partnerships relate to the involvement of service users, consumers, carers, families and support people in overall governance, policy and planning. This level overlaps with the previous level in that a service provider may offer various digital mental health services. Service users, consumers, carers, families and support people may be members of key committees for the service provider, in areas such as clinical governance, technical governance, and service design, and where relevant also in areas such as education, ethics and research.
The processes involved with these partnerships will vary according to the type of digital mental health service and its model of care.
Organisational leadership and support are essential to nurture partnerships at all three levels. Supporting effective consumer, carer and service user partnerships may mean supporting multiple mechanisms of engagement and modalities. Meaningful methods of engagement range from representation on committees and boards, to contributions at focus groups, to feedback received. Engagement may occur face-to-face or via digital means, including social media. Taking the diversity of service users and their support people into account is also necessary to achieve the best results.
8. Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care. Advancing the practice of patient- and family-centered care in primary care and other ambulatory settings: how to get started. Bethesda (MD): IPFCC, 2008.
9. Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Patient-Centred Care: Improving quality and safety through partnerships with patients and consumers. Sydney: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, 2011.