Diversity in eMental Health Practice: an exploratory qualitative study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers
Bird,J, Rotumah, D, Bennett-Levy, J & Singer, J 2017, 'Diversity in eMental Health Practice: an exploratory qualitative study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers', JMIR Mental Health, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. e17
Background: In Australia, mental health services are undergoing major systemic reform with eMental Health (eMH) embedded in proposed service models for all but those with severe mental illness. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers have been targeted as a national priority for training and implementation of eMH into service delivery. Implementation studies on technology uptake in health workforces identify complex and interconnected variables that influence how individual practitioners integrate new technologies into their practice. To date there are only two implementation studies that focus on eMH and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers. They suggest that the implementation of eMH in the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations may be different from the implementation of eMH with allied health professionals and mainstream health services.
Objective: The objective of this study is to investigate how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers in one regional area of Australia used eMH resources in their practice following an eMH training program and to determine what types of eMH resources they used.
Methods: Individual semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers. Interviews were co-conducted by one indigenous and one non-indigenous interviewer. A sample of transcripts were coded and thematically analyzed by each interviewer and then peer reviewed. Consensus codes were then applied to all transcripts and themes identified.
Results: It was found that 9 of the 16 service providers were implementing eMH resources into their routine practice. The findings demonstrate that participants used eMH resources for supporting social inclusion, informing and educating, assessment, case planning and management, referral, responding to crises, and self and family care. They chose a variety of types of eMH resources to use with their clients, both culturally specific and mainstream. While they referred clients to online treatment programs, they used only eMH resources designed for mobile devices in their face-to-face contact with clients.
Conclusions: This paper provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander service providers and the eMH field with findings that may inform and guide the implementation of eMH resources. It may help policy developers locate this workforce within broader service provision planning for eMH. The findings could, with adaptation, have wider application to other workforces who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. The findings highlight the importance of identifying and addressing the particular needs of minority groups for eMH services and resources.