A digital self-management tool for New Zealanders living with schizophrenia is being trialled at three district health boards.
Waka provides a space where service users can access self-management information, give and receive peer support on a nurse-moderated social community and get one-to-one advice from a mental health trained coach. Waka also provides a 24/7 helpline for users who require extra support at any time.
The proof of concept trial begins this month and involves 60 service users enrolled in services in Waikato, Waitemata and Southern DHBs. The trial is open to consumers on community treatment orders and DHB mental health staff have been trained to register and enrol patients.
Mental health clinicians Rees Tapsell and Lyndy Matthews presented on the two-year development of the tool at the e-Mental Health Expert Forum held in Auckland on 17 October.
Tapsell says the tool is about "trying to engage and support a group of people who are often hard to engage".
"Users can personalise the tool to get support and information that’s relevant to them, as first and foremost it’s their tool," he says.
"All information in the Waka tool is entered by the consumers, not by clinicians and it empowers them to be able to access peer support, tracking, education and other self-help tools, whenever they need it."
Tapsell says Waka is the result of a partnership initiative that brought together a range of people, including clinicians, consumers, academics and industry, who saw the value in developing an online tool and community for people living with schizophrenia.
They partnered with pharmaceutical company Janssen to fund the co-design, development and testing of the tool.
Tapsell and Matthews had worked with the company previously and say they determined clear ethical boundaries from the start. Users involved in the initial POC trial will be on a medicine that Janssen produces, but the tool will ultimately be available for anyone to use.
"They haven't at any point taken any editorial control over any aspect of the development of this tool and they have no ownership of or access to the data resulting from this programme," Tapsell explains.
"This is a population of people who have been neglected. It’s really important that we open our eyes to all of the potential opportunities to partner for innovating and improving health services, especially services that support consumers to self-manage."
Waka is built on the Melon Health platform and similar to ACHESS, a US smartphone app for people with addictions which is rebranded Recovery in Hand at Waikato DHB.
Matthews says feedback from the POC trial will inform future modifications to the tool.
Waka will be presented by Lisa Toi, independent consultant and Waka project lead and Sam Rodney-Hudson of Melon Health at the HiNZ 2018 conference in Wellington later this month.