Black Dog Institute partners with SAS to optimise mental health hub for frontline healthcare workers 

  • Online platform offers confidential mental health support, via resources and telehealth sessions
  • SAS’ customer intelligence technology proven instrumental in optimising platform efficacy
  • Continued Government investment in platform to be determined following 2021-22 Federal Budget 

Frontline healthcare workers have been some of the hardest hit throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with little respite and increased pressure to make difficult decisions, putting strain on their mental wellbeing. In response, Australian mental health research institute, Black Dog Institute, has worked closely with SAS, the leader in analytics, to optimise an online support system for healthcare workers.

TEN – The Essential Network for Health Professionals is a digital platform that provides frontline healthcare workers with the tools and resources necessary to cope with and manage stress, burnout and mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.

As part of the Australian Government’s $74 million package to support the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, Black Dog Institute was awarded funding to develop this e-health hub for essential frontline health workers. First launched in June 2020, the platform has been optimised based on informed insights from SAS solutions, user consultation and the project’s wider partner community.

TEN is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health. Black Dog Institute launched TEN in 2020 in collaboration with: SAS, This Way Up, RANZCP, Hand-n-Hand Peer Support, APS, Cogniss, UNSW Sydney and the University of Melbourne.

In developing the platform concept, Black Dog Institute drew on research of Australian health professionals which showed more than 50 per cent of health professionals were worried about contracting COVID-19, and 80 per cent were concerned for their loved ones. This, coupled with elevated psychological distress rates, and reports of depression, anxiety and stress higher than expected meant platform development needed to move incredibly quickly.

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.”

Having developed a similar online platform to support those impacted by the devastating Australian bush fires in 2019 and early-2020, Black Dog Institute in collaboration with their healthcare and technology partners, including SAS, launched the first iteration in two weeks for frontline healthcare workers across the country.

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 a lower demand for telehealth interactions, we quickly realised users were looking to leverage the website for self-management tools and resources. We have since re-launched 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.

In its first two months, TEN saw an uptake of over 10,000 users, which subsequently grew to over 33,000 in the first 10 months. Post the March 2021 re-launch, the platform experienced a 500 per cent spike in click throughs to the self-help resources and online assessments. Throughout the project, the team at Black Dog Institute relied heavily on insights from SAS’ customer intelligence technology, SAS 360 to consistently ensure the platform focused on the resources users were seeking and engaging with.

SAS’ suite of AI and cloud platforms leveraged as part of the project include both SAS 360 Discover, a platform which captures behavioural information throughout the customer experience and SAS 360 Engage, an omnichannel marketing solution. These are underpinned by SAS Viya, the AI, analytic and data management platform, for visualisation, reporting and informed insights.

While it was anticipated that hospital workers would be the most prominent users of the platform, given their day-to-day exposure to COVID-19 specifically, data showed that nurses, General Practitioners (GPs), and psychologists were the most frequently nominated professions of users of the platform, and many accessed it between the hours of 6pm and 8pm.

Working in collaboration with Black Dog Institute, SAS was able to turn these insights into actionable outcomes for the project, for example, utilising the high website traffic times to reach key audience groups, highlight new and updated resources, and leverage A/B UX testing methods to ensure maximum effectiveness of the platform.

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 their 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.”

Dr Peter Baldwin, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Research Fellow, Black Dog Institute, said: “The platform has reached over 33,000 healthcare professionals since its launch in June 2020, and we’re continuing to refine and enhance the content to make sure TEN helps as many people as possible.

“For us, providing useful mental health support to frontline health workers when and how they need it is incredibly important. The platform has been built with longevity in mind, featuring resources and support services to continue supporting healthcare professionals, particularly as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across the country which presents new pressures and demands on the healthcare system.” 

About Black Dog Institute

Black Dog Institute is the only Medical Research Institute in Australia to investigate mental health across the lifespan. We ask the complex questions to build evidence–based solutions to address public health challenges in mental health. We hold the evidence from our extensive clinical expertise and research, to develop education programs, digital tools and clinical services. We work with people who have lived experience to inform best practice. 

For more information about Black Dog Institute’s TEN – The Essential Network for Health Professionals, visit http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/ten.  

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.

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