They researched, we listened and implemented. The importance of design for mental health technologies

Design Opportunities for Mental Health Peer Support Technologies - peer reviewed paper.

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Paper conclusion:

Technology plays an important role in peer support for mental health. Innovations in peer support tools for mental health could make a substantial difference to people with mental illnesses for whom the role of technology is “excruciatingly crucial,” “essential,” and “lifesaving,” as some of our participants indicated. 

Our research advocates opportunities to build tools that enhance supportive interactions for peers by: (1) surfacing similarities beyond diagnosis; (2) improving accessibility; and (3) proactively mitigating risk through training and intervention. The contributions of this work are an understanding of the expectations, roles, and risks of technology in peer support for people with a diverse range of mental illnesses, and identification of opportunities for technology design to foster mental health peer support. 

One of the major challenges facing mental health care today is the lack of professionals to meet the demand for care by 1 in 5 Americans. This work represents an important first step for informing the design of peer support tools that can bridge the gap in care, and empower peers to help each other. 

Read the full paper here:


Collaboration Call - Mental Health and Wellness

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The team at Social Health Innovations, Inc. are pleased to announce the global launch of Looper (Be A Looper App) on both iOS and Android on December 1. Looper allows a safe and engaging place for up to five people to check in with each other daily, to rate and share how their day is tracking and is completely free.

We invite any initiatives, technologies or support centres in the mental health and wellness space to reach out and connect - so we can add you to our resources centre within the app (where our users can go to get further help should they not be tracking well, or wish to support a fellow Looper in a crisis).

We look forward to hearing from you and supporting each other in our goal "To lower the suicide rate globally, through technology".

Expenditure on Mental Health Services - Australia

This section reviews the available information on recurrent expenditure (running costs) for mental health‑related services. Health expenditure (what was spent) and health funding (who provided the funds) are distinct but related concepts essential to understanding the financial resources used by the health system. Data on expenditure and funding, calculated in both current and constant prices, are derived from a variety of sources, as outlined in the data source section. Most data presented is for the 2014–15 period, therefore, constant prices are adjusted to 2014–15 levels, including more recent 2015–16 Australian Government Medicare expenditure and mental health-related medications subsidised under the PBS and RPBS expenditure data. Further information on health expenditure is available in Health expenditure Australia 2014–15 (AIHW 2016).

  • Around $8.5 billion, or $361 per person, was estimated to be spent on mental health-related services in Australia during 2014–15, an increase from $343 per person (adjusted for inflation) in 2010–11 (2014–15 dollars).
  • $5.2 billion was spent on state and territory specialised mental health services, an average annual real increase of 2.3% between 2010–11 and 2014–15. Of this, most was spent on public hospital services for admitted patients ($2.2 billion), followed by community mental health care services ($1.9 billion).

  • Expenditure on specialised mental health services in private hospitals was $433 million during 2014–15.

  • The Australian Government paid about $1.1 billion in benefits for Medicare-subsidised mental health‑related services in 2015–16, equating to 5.3% of all Medicare subsidies. Expenditure on psychologist services (clinical and other) ($489 million) made up the largest component of mental health‑related Medicare subsidies in 2015–16.

  • The Australian Government spent $564 million, or $24 per person, on subsidised prescriptions under the PBS/RPBS during 2015–16, equating to 5.0% of all PBS/RPBS subsidies. Prescriptions for antipsychotics (49.6%) and antidepressants (36.5%) accounted for the majority of mental health-related PBS and RPBS expenditure during this time period.

Read more:

PWC x Beyond Blue Report Shows Organisations can Expect a 2.3 ROI When Implementing Mentally Healthy Workplace Strategies.

Smart companies are making the investment in employee health including employee benefits such as gym memberships, healthy delivered lunches, employee rewards through programs such as Reward Gateway and extended leave, but is it enough to keep staff happy within the workplace?

Recent analysis has shown the annual cost of mental health to businesses costs $10 billion in Australia alone. To further elaborate, we have highlighted some key points from the PwC x Beyond Blue report ‘Creating a mentally healthy workplace‘ – ROI analysis, published March 20, 2014, are below:

  • Mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. However, through the successful implementation of an effective action to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations, on average, can expect a positive return on investment (ROI) of 2.3.
  • Every $1 spent on successfully  implementing an appropriate action, there is on average $2.30 in benefits to be gained by the organisation.
  • The annual cost of mental health to Australian businesses is $10 billion and the economy $20 billion (Chair of the National Mental Health Commission).

We predict by 2020, companies will be investing more into the mental health of their staff, focusing on systems and networks which empower the employees to quickly utilise the support mechanisms. This will lead to a higher level of productivity, happiness and perhaps overall staff retention and of course, the 2.3 ROI.

You can download the PwC report here.

Mental Health Smartphone Apps: Review and Evidence-Based Recommendations for Future Developments

by David Bakker, B Psych (Hons),1 Nikolaos Kazantzis, PhD,1,2 Debra Rickwood, BA (Hons), PhD,3 and  Nikki Rickard, BBSc(Hons), PhD(Psych)4

"Average users check their phones as often as 150 times a day [2], which reflects how smartphone apps can generate, reward, and maintain strong habits involving their use [3,4]. Apps are also capable of implementing behavior change interventions [5], which may improve users’ physical health [6]."

Click here for the full paper:


Disrupting Healthcare: The Technology And Innovation Making Waves

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As the CEO of healthcare technology company Social Health Innovations, I am asked daily about my insights into innovation in the healthcare sector. Here is a glimpse at what I have been privy to in the last 24 months:

Hospital to Drugstore / Pharmacy Datashare:
I was involved in due diligence in Q1 of 2014 for Ramsay Health Care surrounding the sharing of patient data from Ramsay Hospital sites across to Ramsay branded pharmacies/drugstores. I surveyed the target patient groups and the interest was overwhelming. There was resistance surrounding privacy - however I made reccomendations that patients could use fingerprint, voice or facial recognition technology to verify their patient records across the multiple sites. The innovation was well received by Paul Ramsay and the participants alike.

Apple ResearchKit is an open source framework introduced by Apple  that allows researchers and developers to create powerful apps for medical research. I would encourage you to check out some case studies on their website; the uptake amongst participants has been great. 

I have just written a short note on the importance of the urgent need of gamification of the health / wellness tech sector - you can give it a read here. I have no doubt there will be a huge shift in user experience / user interface design of current medical technology. 

A survey by New York University reported nearly half of mobile consumers/patients are resistant to uptake in the healthcare sector at the moment. We are using this as the backbone for our business at Social Health Innovations.

"I believe people should be as addicted to their mental health app, as they are to Facebook, Candy Crush or Tinder. The magic is in the design and constant iteration - the health sector MUST embrace gamification in order to keep patients engaged.


The PSFK Future of Health Report by Piers Fawkes is an exceptional download for anyone wanting to know more.

- Amanda Johnstone

The Unshakable Importance of Gamification in Health and Wellness Tech

At Social Health Innovations we use a collaborative approach in designing and building our technologies. The process of taking our technology to market has been a slow, yet considered and tested approach.

We take design and gamification very seriously.. perhaps more seriously then any other mental health technology platform.

But Why So Serious?
Recently, a survey by researchers at New York University School of Medicine’s Population Health department of than 1,600 smartphone users, assessed their experience downloading health apps. The most damning insight comes from the question of why they stopped using the apps they downloaded.  Nearly half, or 44 percent, said it took too much time to enter data. Another 40 percent said loss of interest was a factor and 36 percent pointed to hidden costs. More than one-third said the apps were confusing to use and 30 percent said they did not like that the apps shared their data with friends.*

An Introduction
I (hello, I am Amanda Johnstone - the Founder and CEO of Social Health Innovations) also conducted due diligence in Q1 of 2014 for Ramsay Health, which unveiled key findings into healthcare technology and patient/user experience. My background in market research and due diligence gave me a firm understanding that consumer insight must be the foundation to any brand or technical positioning. In a world (healthcare) riddled by red tape, this would prove to be the most important challenge of my career to date.

I believe people should be as addicted to their mental health app, as they are to Facebook, Candy Crush or Tinder. The magic is in the design and constant iteration - the health sector MUST embrace gamification in order to keep patients engaged.

Our Conclusion
With nearly half of mobile health users not enjoying their experience, we needed to ensure our technology was addictive, beautiful and simple, in order to cut through and build a platform that will achieve results. 

Where It All Began
Initial consultation began with the board of Australian not-for-profit RUOK – after an invitation was extended to us from board member, Jack Singleton. In a series of three workshops with suicide prevention and mental health experts, the idea was significantly refined and targeted to a place that was lacking globally – simple and seamless communication of emotions. These experts provided insight, feedback and constructive criticism to the idea.

The Design Process
Following consultation, Australia’s most sought after graphics designer; Oliver Rozynski (looking happy below in black) was then engaged to bring the idea to life. Rozynski is known for his skills of making complex instructions simple and client list boasts News Corp, Qantas and HP. The process of design, road mapping and UI began – a unique 3D concept for mental health was born (and patented).

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The Build
Our Head of Technology, Bachir El Khoury (pictured cheerfully above in grey) was engaged in 2015 to bring the designs to life – making them engaging, immersive and interactive. El Khoury specialises in gamification (and is the brains behind the addictive game, Slots Showdown and produced the animation and design on major titles including The Hulk, Fantastic Four, Elektra, Wolverine, The Punisher and Silver Surfer.) As Head of Technology, he leverages his qualifications in Software Engineering, Social Psychology, Gamification and Design to bring Looper to life and constantly iterate.

Further Testing
In mid to late 2015, another testing phase commenced across Australia and the US, where focus groups and insights were gathered surrounding semantics, design, functionality and colours. We visited Sydney, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  

Hearing feedback is our favourite part of the process, to see real-life users fall in love with the project and provide pathways to make it even more engaging. 100% of people tested asked when they could use the product with their families or colleagues.

We refined our product with our internal team, doctors, service providers, marketers, HR organisations, parents, grandparents, corporations, rehabs, lived experience of suicide survivors, friends, children, teachers, those at-risk, pilots - you name it. 

We also listened to recommendations from leads from Twilio, Stanford, Apple, Freelancer, Virgin, Stereosonic, Dropbox, Reward Gateway, UTS, PSFK and advisors to NATO and the US Government. There wasn't a stone we left unturned - or any advice we did not listen too.

The Result 
Our offering was again slashed in half and refined, to keep the technology and simple, seamless and addictive as possible. Messaging was taken out of the matrix and many processes were stripped back. A global demand was also requested for our technology to plug into pre-existing technologies so our team are building that out now.

Global Scientific Advisory and Accountability
Tweaks are now being made to our software, most importantly with constant refinement from our global scientific team of doctors and researchers. This is to ensure not only include behavioural insights such as cognitive behavioural therapies are not overlooked in our technology, but to guarantee we measure our results as we launch with research.

In Closing
In my year and a half of running research and development at Social Health Innovations, I’ve only come across one health / wellness app that stands out amongst the masses. I’d like to personally commend relaxation application Pause for their breakthrough designs (as pictured in our header). We are however excited for the growth in understanding of the necessity to improve design. Please do reach out if you would like to speak with any of my team or I for advice.

On behalf of the extended team, advisors and investors at Social Health Innovations, we look forward to rolling out both our enterprise and community platforms in 2016 and perhaps even working with you. I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments below.

Warm regards,

- Amanda Johnstone, CEO and Founder of Social Health Innovations