Harnessing mobile sensing technologies to bridge the gap between therapy and real life for young people.

In 2018 the Telstra Foundation launched the Tech4Good Challenge and gave 20 leading Australian not-for-profits seed funding to develop a digital idea to improve the lives of our young people. Orygen Digital was one of 5 groups to win Telstra’s ongoing support to bring our idea to life over a two-year period. Our Tech4Good project harnesses mobile sensing technologies to finally shift the current one-size-fits-all reactive model of youth mental health care to one of tailor-made proactive delivery.

In collaboration with the University of Melbourne School of Computing and Information Systems, we are building a client-facing mobile app and a paired provider-facing web app, which will work seamlessly together to augment face-to-face therapy. Called PRODIGY, our client-facing mobile app will be designed to deliver highly personalised real time therapy to young people direct to their pockets, in the real life moments they need it. It will do so by integrating clinically proven online therapy with advanced Ecological Momentary Intervention (EMI) and passive sensing tools (that is, effortless mobile phone tracking of locations, activities and emotions). PRODIGY will connect with our paired provider-facing web app, allowing young people to share information with their therapist on their sensed moment-to-moment activities and emotions if they choose. In this way, PRODIGY will help bridge the gap between therapy sessions and daily life for young people, and assist therapists in providing informed personalised care.

Our first iteration of PRODIGY will be specifically designed to augment care for young Australians receiving face-to-face therapy for anxiety or depression within our national youth mental health service, headspace. The mobile app will be fully developed in 2019, and tested in 2020 through a 6-month single group pilot study recruiting 50 young people with mental-ill health across 5 headspace services in Melbourne. If successful, PRODIGY has the potential radically enhance the personalisation, responsiveness and flexibility of care offered to the many thousands of young people who access headspace services each year.