Mental Health App That Cost Australian Taxpayers $33m Did Not Result in ‘Clinical Outcomes’

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From The Guardian: “A government-funded mental health platform, primarily owned by PwC and the University of Sydney, ‘does not seem to have demonstrated clinical outcomes of healthcare value,’ a study has found.

Despite receiving $33m from the government via a non-competitive grant, transparency and mental health advocates expressed concern about the closed grant process and argued an open and competitive tender for the $33m investment would have ensured value for money.

Guardian Australia previously revealed that the former government led by Malcolm Turnbull in 2017 awarded the grant to the for-profit company Innowell to develop a mental health app. Known as ‘Project Synergy,’ it was scrapped after health workers at pilot sites found it to be an administrative burden.

new study published by CSIRO’s Australian Health Review journal raises further questions about the value for money achieved for taxpayers from the Innowell app.

Researchers, led by Associate Prof Jeffrey Looi from the Australian National University’s school of medicine . . . found there ‘is little to no evidence’ that the project ensured patients were connected to care without the need for general practitioner assessment and referral and that there ‘was very limited uptake of the InnoWell referral platform in the trial sites.’

. . . ​Dr Piers Gooding, a senior research fellow with Melbourne Law School, said: ‘. . . there is hype around digital technology like AI – and industry pressure – that can shut down critical reflection.

‘Digital approaches are often presented as an unquestioned good, particularly in the mental health field. In the mental health field, this is made worse by generally poor efforts to enquire about service user experiences and views.'”

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