New key standards for the digital mental health space

The National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health (NSQDMH) Standards were released in November 2020, and are the first of their kind. Developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care in consultation with consumers, service providers, academics, regulators and technical experts, the NSQDMH Standards aim to improve the quality of digital mental health service provision, and protect service users and their support people from harm.

What is a digital mental health service?

In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the rapid evolution of digital technologies, telehealth services are being used more widely than ever before. As the take-up of these digital services increases, it makes sense to improve the regulation of the digital health service provision space.

So what does a digital mental health service look like?

The NSQDMH Standards define digital mental health as a mental health, suicide prevention or alcohol and other drug (AOD) service that uses technology to facilitate engagement and deliver care. Traditionally mental health, suicide prevention and AOD were considered distinct sectors, however the NSQDMH Standards refer to these digital services collectively.

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)

What are the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards?

The three NSQDMH Standards are:

  • Clinical and Technical Governance Standard
  • Partnering with Consumers Standard
  • Model of Care Standard

The three standards include 59 actions related to clinical and technical aspects of digital mental health services. They describe the level of care and the safeguards that a digital mental health service should provide.

The NSQDMH Standards create a nationally consistent quality assurance mechanism for digital mental health service providers. Providers can assess areas of compliance as well as areas for improvement, with respect to their safety and quality assurance systems.

The standards are modelled on the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHS). Providers who already meet NSQHS are only required to implement actions specific to the NSQDMH Standards, which are relevant to their service.

Implementation of the NSQDMH Standards is currently voluntary. Self-assessing against the standards is an excellent way for service providers to demonstrate best practice in this space.

To assist providers to learn more about these standards and measure themselves against them, we are pleased to offer a self-assessment for the NSQDMH Standards on SPP. Our self-assessment consists of quizzes for each action across the three standards, as well Evidence Guides and linked resources to accompany each quiz.

You can find the self-assessment for the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards in SPP under the Standards tab > Australian National Standards.

Want to learn more?

Self- assess against the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards on SPP.

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SPP has been a great resource for understanding and mapping Standards, preparing for Audits and also sourcing resources for policy development. I would recommend it to other organisations to complement their quality and compliance work. Information can be easily shared, and evidence gathered to support all work done.
Community mental health service provider, Victoria
I like the speed and ease of SPP, I love how it maps multiple standards. It’s so convenient, I couldn’t imagine the nightmare to do the work manually. The templates are great for gap analysis. SPP resource templates are great for implementing new policies in the office and for what we do day to day.
Large provider of settlement services to immigrants, New South Wales
I have found the SPP system amazing. It provides a structured way to work through the standards and then provide a succinct report on the evidence being provided for a surveyor to view how we meet the standard. I used this in our recent accreditation survey, the auditor was very impressed, AND we are now accredited for ISO 9001. Thanks again. A great system.
Provider of diverse range of health programs, Queensland
We really like SPP. We use the resources in the Reading Room and couldn't have passed our accreditation with flying colours without SPP.
Advocacy, support and education provider, Australian Capital Territory
Everything is going well with SPP. It’s helped us through three lots of accreditation over the past nine months plus some internal auditing, so I’m very glad to have had it to assist us through the processes.
Large regional multi-service provider, Victoria