Virtual clinic for mental health

The federal government has invited mental health organisations to apply for funding for a new virtual mental health clinic to provide telephone and web-based cognitive behavioural therapy.

The government has made $20 million available over three years for the virtual clinic, which will be hosted on new $12 million mental health portal, due to be up and running in July this year.

As part of the package, providers will be expected to undergo an IT security audit and eventually link the virtual clinic to the patient's PCEHR.

The virtual clinic and portal are two of three related projects announced last year as part of the government's mental health reform package.

The other project is a central support centre (CSC) to provide advice on the most effective therapies in the online environment and the governance of the portal, as well as to promote the portal to primary care providers.

The portal, announced by the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, in September last year, will provide a single gateway for users to existing teleweb services and provide a platform for new programs as they are developed.

In its invitation to apply (ITA) document, the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) said development of the portal is being progressed with advice from the department’s e-Mental Health Expert Advisory Committee and is expected to commence operations on July 1.

“Development of the portal will continue beyond that date and will include new functionality, programs and information,” the department said.

The portal is being built by the National Health Call Centre Network (NHCCN), which will also host the portal when it goes live.

Members of the expert committee include social media specialist Rachel de Sain; Helen Christensen, director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at ANU; Gavin Andrews, director of the School of Psychiatry at UNSW; the eHealth director of the Black Dog Institute, Judy Proudfoot; and Jane Burns, who leads the Co-operative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing Project.

Indigenous, consumer and carer representatives along and executives from Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Australia are also on the committee.

The winning applicant will be expected to comply with DoHA's Quality Framework for Telephone Counselling and Internet-based Support Services and undertake an external IT security audit.

The audit will review the architecture and technology of the online components used to manage, store, and respond to clients’ personal information.

It will also involve an on-site review of each projects’ technical infrastructure including hardware and software to ensure that appropriate web platforms and firewalls are in place, patches are applied in a timely fashion, log on access is via secure systems and that any wireless access is secure.

For more information on the virtual clinic, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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