Evaluation of The Practitioner Online Referral and Treatment Service (PORTS)

Professor Nick Titov, Executive Director of MindSpot will present ‘Evaluation of The Practitioner Online Referral and Treatment Service (PORTS)’ at the 2019 International Mental Health Conference.

His talk will describe the design of PORTS and challenges experienced in the first 18 months of implementing a state-wide digital service for adults with anxiety, depression or substance use problems.

In this blog post, Professor Titov outlines some main points from his presentation.

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Key lessons from the first 18 months of operating a state-wide digital mental health service

In 2015 the Australian Government established 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia. PHNs were given responsibility for reform of primary mental health services. Across Australia PHNs have now commissioned a substantial number of primary care mental health services, but relatively little is known about their design and outcomes.

A new service model to improve access to mental health care

PORTS was commissioned by the three PHNs in Western Australia (WA) to deliver digital (telephone and online) psychological consultation services across the state. We launched PORTs in mid 2017, and have now served more than 3,000 consumers, all referred by general practitioners (GPs)

PORTS – not all smooth sailing

In my talk I will describe the design of PORTS, the users, and some of the challenges in developing and deploying a new model of primary mental health care. Some of the challenges include:

  • the obvious difficulties of talking to busy GPs and trying to change their referral patterns
  • the logistics of deploying a new service model in a state which is one third the size of Australia, but only has 2.5 million people, of whom 2 million live in Perth
  • trying to establish a new service model in a rapidly evolving context, where the PHNs are commissioning new services, the Government is imposing new ways of reporting outcomes, and we only had 12 months of funding.

Using digital methods to breach barriers and provide hope

Notwithstanding challenges, PORTS outcomes have been very promising. We have demonstrated we can reach and engage a traditionally hard-to-reach group using digital methods. PORTS is far from complete, but I will argue it has considerable potential as a model that can address some of the workforce challenges across Australia, and more importantly, can also help consumers more easily access mental health care.


https://anzmh.asn.au/conference