Thu. 06. Jun 2019 14:05
Much like the Eurovision Song Contest, IMA’s consortium consists of a number of European partners, and then a couple from Australia. We, in IMA, are extremely happy with our diverse consortium, but what is the reason for Australian organisations to join an EU project, and what can those partners, or even the Australian healthcare system, gain from such a project? We set out to find the answers to these questions.
Despite great differences in areas such as history and infrastructure, the Australian and European cultures are somewhat similar and create a fertile breeding ground for prosperous relationships. This could possibly be the reason why Australia participates in a number of European initiatives, such as the Eurovision Song Contest as well as our EU funded project, ImpleMentAll.
In IMA, we have two Australian partners, The Australian National University and Black Dog Institute. Both partners engage in mental health research with the aim to improve lives of people affected by mental illness. Furthermore, digital solutions for healthcare are on the policy agenda in Australia with the launch of a National Digital Health Strategy in 2017, which supports the use of web-based and mobile apps for mental health care. Thus, these two Australian partners are not only relevant but also quite valuable to our project.
Digital mental health interventions are established as safe and effective in Australia, but they are not always part of routine care. This is the gap that our two Australian partners seek to bridge by means of their participation in IMA. Black Dog Institute, for instance, have developed a service, called StepCare Service, to assist General Practitioners (GPs) in identifying and supporting people with common mental health problems and to help integrate evidence-based online mental health treatment programs into their practice. When IMA offered an opportunity to help increase uptake of internet-based treatment and to evaluate the StepCare Service to better understand how GPs work with online mental health treatment programs, Black Dog Institute could not find any reason why they should not participate. This understanding is essential for easing pressure on a high-demand mental health system, and for supporting GPs in their own work.
Furthermore, the networking-value of a project like IMA is immeasurable to many of our partners, because it facilitates knowledge-transfer, new connections, and possibly new partners for potential future projects. “Being part of an international project is an opportunity for us to learn from other implementers, researchers, and clinicians around the world, and to share our experiences of engaging primary care (particularly GPs) in research and implementation,” says Isabel Zbukvic from Black Dog Institute.
In Australia, they already have RCT-level evidence for internet-based mental health treatment programs. However, these interventions are not completely adopted into routine care. Thus, Black Dog Institute and the Australian National University seized the opportunity to reach the next step of making health professionals and patients perceive these programs as a usual part of the range of treatment options that is available to them. An implementation study, like IMA, can help understand what the barriers are for using iCBT in routine care, and thereby improve uptake, which in turn can bring the two organisations to the next step that is implementation in routine care.
Thus, the synergies descending from collaborations between Australian and European partners in a project like IMA are quite valuable to the project, the partners, and even to the Australian healthcare system. If you have any question to or about our Australian partners, comment them below and we will answer to the best of our ability!