Ten general practitioners across the Murray region will take part in a trial with the Black Dog Institute to gain mental health assessments from patients before they even enter the doctor’s office.
The Murray Primary Health Network has partnered with the institute to deliver the 12-month pilot program from July and is seeking expressions of interest from GPs.
Chief executive Matt Jones said patients would receive a tablet device to take part in a short voluntary survey while awaiting their appointment, with results received in real-time by medical staff.
“It’s designed as an early intervention and assessment tool – for people contending with mental health issues, there’s a range of physical and emotional considerations,” he said.
“Many people might present to a doctor with a physical condition, but this identifies mental health needs as well and the GP will know information that might not otherwise come up through consultation.”
Mr Jones said feedback from GPs outside of regional Victoria had returned positive.
“It’s in a format for people to provide open responses in regards to confidential information,” he said.
“It’s been something patients have indicated they felt comfortable in answering.”
A preliminary trial of StepCare showed 70 per cent of 418 patients and 87 per cent of GPs across five sites agreed the resource worked well.
Black Dog Institute director Helen Christensen said the program was the first of its kind in Australia.
“It helps patients who have been uncomfortable to speak up, or who were unaware they had mental health symptoms, to access the treatment and support,” she said.
“We also know nearly 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage of their life and that rates are higher among rural areas.”
Mr Jones said the aim of the pilot was to integrate StepCare long-term at Murray GPs and provide advice to the 30 other primary health networks across the country.
“We’ll be working in close contact with the Black Dog Institute in the implementation of the project to help generate and strengthen information for other PHN areas,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to obtain evidence about improving clinical care.”
GPs in the Murray PHN catchment can submit an EOI for the pilot at eprocure.com.au/murrayphn/.