The Com-Hac (Community Health Advancement Conference) held during mental health week on May 7th 2018 was a unique meeting of tech and health innovation. The event took place at the Globe and Mail Centre on King Street East, which boasts spectacular views. Our presentation theme fell under “Creating Creative Connectivity and Virtual Care Models”.
As we are in the implementation phase of our research project which involves the Nexj Connected Wellness Platform (NCW), an online self management and peer engagement tool for young adults, this appeared to be the perfect forum to present the platform. Originally designed for the chronic disease population, the NCW platform is being adapted through a co-design process to fit the needs of young adults and the mental health sector.
Funmi, Chris and I were excited at the prospect of sharing the work we do at Stella’s Place to reflect our values of self-empowerment, self-determination and resilience, as well as the integral voice of youth in the design and delivery of all of our programs.
We wanted to share with other conference participants how these values, now synonymous with the service provided at Stella’s Place, were naturally extended and translated to the design of an online platform and program for, and in collaboration with, young adults.
Chris D’Agostino, is a clinician at Stella’s Place whose works involves collaborating with various teams to provide engaging, accessible and effective mental health support to young adults both online and in person. Though she was not eventually able to present at the conference with Funmi and I, she was instrumental in the presentation preparation and excited about sharing the work we do and especially about the online services we are extending to our participants.
Chris has contributed to the online program design which is being administered through the NCW platform. Had she been there, she would have also talked about the recently introduced online augmenting of the DBT program which she delivers with an online self management and educational component.
Funmi is an Online Peer Supporter who contributes to the program engagement and peer support service offered through the NCW platform. He brings with him experience in developing and supporting online platforms for young adults to manage their mental health recovery.
A natural orator, Funmi delivered an engaging overview and demo of the NCW platform, focusing less on data, but rather on how the tools we have been developing actually work. The audience appeared to enjoy the “sneak peek”.
My background is in digital platform implementation in various sectors. I was excited to share my observations with the conference attendees (whose interests were an intersection of health and technology). I have found an interesting trend in software development – an incorporation of a “User Centered Design” (UCD) approach to the agile process.
With agile only approach the client’s requirements are represented by the Product Manager. Including the UCD approach ensures that the participant is sitting at the table with the design and development team. This inclusive dynamic creates a feedback loop where the customer is continuously consulted for their input into the requirements. As already mentioned, Stella’s Place has a program design model that works within a co-design framework. Our youths are engaged as co-collaborators of the programs and services they receive. The co-design approach is therefore an integral part of the digital platform system design.
A UCD approach is novel in the mental health and health sectors. As such, we see ourselves as innovators, and disruptors in trying to create Creative Connectivity through virtual models of care for the mental health sector.
We were surprised and thrilled at the audience engagement and interest in the work we are doing. We were also in good company presenting with other organization and teams whose work shows innovation and disruption in delivering mental health and health solutions in Ontario.
We appreciated the exquisite food that was offered and to be able to also have the opportunity to network with players in both the health and innovation sectors and those doing both, was an added bonus to participating.
Did I mention the amazing views?? The conference was held at the Globe and Mail building on King East. The conference rooms were wall-to-wall glass windows overlooking the city from dizzy heights. The sun was streaming in that day, which was welcomed after a spell of equivocal ‘spring’ weather almost as if to let us know that all’s well with mental health and innovation ..well, we are trying.
Words: Tendai Mhute