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Addressing the Access Gap: Leveraging the Potential of e-Mental Health in Canada


Canada faces a “crisis of access” when it comes to mental health services, in part because as stigma recedes more people are seeking care. e-Mental health could play an important role in breaking up this logjam by extending reach, spawning additional access points and promoting higher quality care.

To explore how e-Mental health technologies can be leveraged, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) hosted a roundtable meeting in Vancouver on January 27, 2017. Policy makers, organizational leaders, people with lived experience and researchers from across Canada, along with a panel of international experts, came together to:

  • Increase awareness of the latest evidence on the effectiveness/efficacy of e-health solutions in improving access to mental health care;
  • Identify and examine existing models of e-Mental health that have been implemented in Canada and internationally;
  • Identify and discuss barriers and facilitators to the adoption and implementation of e-Mental health approaches to improve access to services; and
  • Explore recommendations to support the development, implementation and evaluation of current and/or future opportunities in e-Mental health.

Key Findings

The following emerged from the roundtable as clear principles for future action on e-Mental health:

  • Person-led is the way forward. This is important both in partnering with users who will be using the services in order to design them and in giving people control over their own data.
  • The digital divide must be addressed. Those unable to access the requisite technology and services—or who lack the skills or knowledge needed to take advantage of e-Mental health solutions—will be left out.
  • e-Mental health is integral to improving access. While there are no “magic bullets”, e-Mental health solutions provide the opportunity to increase access to services and help relieve Canada’s overburdened mental health care system.
  • Innovation requires some tolerance for risk. Evidence of effectiveness is important to guiding mental health system decisions, but traditional methods of evidencegathering can be too slow or inexact for e-Mental health. A model more suited to technological solutions should be used, such as one that generates data through continuous quality improvement or ongoing program evaluations.
  • We need coordination. There is a desire to proliferate e-Mental health solutions, but nothing will get done without a coordinated effort. Teamwork, partnerships and formalized strategies for e-Mental health are essential.
  • Strong leadership is key. e-Mental health needs champions among practitioners, government and people with lived experience. Inspiring people to take up the cause requires increasing the visibility of e-Mental health and the evidence supporting it.
  • Tech is borderless; collaboration should be, too. We need to look globally to see what works—and share our information internationally.
  • Ultimately, it is about system change. Rather than an add-on to the status quo, e-Mental health is and should be seen as an enabler of system change.

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