Legal Insights

ACSQHS: National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards

By Aaron Kloczko & Katherine McNaughton

• 17 June 2021 • 2 min read
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The National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards were released on 30 November 2020. An independent assessment scheme for the voluntary standards will be implemented in late 2021.

The National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards (NSQDMH Standards) were developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care following a comprehensive consultation process with consumers, service providers, clinicians, academics, regulators and technical experts.

What is a digital mental health service?

A digital mental health service is a mental health, suicide prevention or alcohol and other drug service that uses technology (such as telephone, videoconference, internet, SMS and apps) to facilitate engagement and deliver care. It does not include generic digital services (such as decision support tools; electronic medical records; clinical practice management software and clinical workflow and communications software).

The NSQDMH Standards comprise three standards:
(a) clinical and technical governance standard;
(b) partnering with consumers standard; and
(c) model of care standard, which together contain 59 actions.

The standards are based on the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (NSQHS). Service providers who are required to meet the NSQHS are only required to implement those actions specific to the NSQDMH Standards. Not all actions will be applicable to every digital mental health service.

The intention is that the NSQDMH Standards will provide a nationally consistent quality assurance mechanism for digital mental health service providers to assess whether appropriate safety and quality assurance systems are in place; whether those standards are met; and identity areas for improvement.

Even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic acceleration of technology-enabled models of care, digital mental health services and tools are becoming an increasingly important part of the mental healthcare landscape. The NSQDMH Standards are an important development, particularly in the context of the reforms to software-as-a-medical device (discussed separately in this publication here), which takes low-risk digital mental health tools largely outside of the remit of the TGA.

A key aspect of the NSQDMH Standards is the requirement to provide easy-to-understand product information, in the form of a template published by the Commission. The template requires the service provider to provide information regarding benefits and risks; clinician involvement; costs; data collection and privacy; and so on.

Implementation of the NSQDMH Standards is voluntary. Currently, service providers may self-assess against the NSQDMH Standards. The Commission is developing an independent assessment scheme for implementation in late 2021.

To read more articles from this edition of The Prescription, please click here.

By Aaron Kloczko & Katherine McNaughton

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