The use of trusted e-mental health solutions (such as apps and online programmes) has increasingly been accepted world-wide as a realistic option for augmenting traditional mental health and addiction services and improving access to psychological interventions and mental health and addiction care. The uptake of these solutions has increased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted how digital approaches can offer some level of care where access to in-person services is limited.
With the rapid adoption of e-mental health apps, online self-help and digital programmes, comes the need to ensure those solutions are safe, effective and enable trust between prescribers and users. The DMHAT assessment framework is the Ministry of Health’s initial step in this direction.
DMHAT was developed with input from numerous whānau, clinicians, developers, researchers, e-mental health and IT experts. The project is now led by Health Navigator NZ in partnership with the Ministry of Health, sector experts and whānau with lived experience (through the Health Consumer Advisory Service and other broad community networks).
As use and functionality of e-mental health solutions expand, so too will the DMHAT assessment framework evolve and adapt.
About the tool
The Digital Mental Health & Addiction Tool (DMHAT) is an assessment framework for the safe navigation of e-mental health in Aotearoa. It is intended to help anyone involved in the design, development and use of e-mental health tools to ensure the products meet acceptable quality standards.
The standardised assessment of digital tools and e-health is an emerging space globally. The DMHAT assessment framework outlines baseline standards to deliver safe, trusted and effective digital mental health and wellbeing solutions for individuals, whānau, and communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.
The DMHAT framework assesses e-mental health tools against a range of areas including:
- clinical safety and quality
- data privacy and security
- cultural safety.
The framework applies to apps and tools that are digitally delivered and aim to support mental health in some way (eg, mobile apps and online programmes). This can include wellness-oriented apps if there is a clear health-related focus and benefit.
The assessment framework has two components. The first is an introductory guide to DMHAT that sets out the baseline standards expected of e-mental health tools for users in Aotearoa New Zealand. The second component is a self-assessment tool for designers and developers of digital mental health apps and tools. The self-assessment is available either as an online tool or a downloadable document.
Designers and developers will be guided through what it takes to meet acceptable standards for New Zealanders, and the health professionals who support them. Over the longer-term, there may be opportunities to consider the use of the framework as part of a more formal accreditation pathway.
The DMHAT framework is hosted by eMHIC, an international group of leaders and experts collaborating and sharing knowledge on e-mental health and addiction to get better outcomes for users.
Digital health is constantly evolving and we want whānau with lived experience, clinicians and health providers, vendors, researchers, academics and agencies at all levels to contribute to, and participate in, the ongoing development of digital tool assessment, with a particular focus on the mental health and hauora.
Find out more about the Collaborative and how to get involved with DMHAT.