October 9, 2023
10 minute read

Beyond the Waitlist: Transforming Eating Disorder Care with Digital Solutions & Recovery Kits

In eating disorders, the current model of healthcare is not sustainable, and due to client drop-out, we know that less than 20% of people who are referred to a service will end up completing treatment, mainly because waitlists are getting longer and longer
Beyond the Waitlist: Transforming Eating Disorder Care with Digital Solutions & Recovery Kits
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Published on
May 14, 2024

The current model of healthcare is not sustainable. The traditional model is leading to high clinician burnout, and inefficient systems, which contribute to long waitlists and also create substantial obstacles for consumers wanting to access support. In eating disorders, we know that less than 20% of people who are referred to a service will end up completing treatment, with most dropping out while on the waitlist for treatment. In future, we will simply not have enough clinicians to solve this problem.

One of my most remarkable milestones has been securing funding from the North Metropolitan Health Service to develop a groundbreaking digital application for eating disorders, a journey marked by navigating the intricate web of compliance within WA Health. Witnessing the realisation of this project holds immense pride, especially as it marks the first digital application for North Metropolitan Health Service. Reflecting on the journey, I shared a screenshot of the app's home screen with a colleague, realising, "Wow, we did that – worth celebrating!"

My quest began with addressing the unacceptable waitlists for specialist treatment in eating disorders, ranging from 6-12 months. In my role at the Centre for Clinical Interventions, I pioneered a digital application offering evidence-based education and intervention at the point of referral. This empowers individuals to access help when needed, regardless of their location, complemented by a clinical monitoring dashboard for proactive health risk response. Additionally, through my company, Morgan Psychology, I introduced the NOURISH recovery kit, collaborating with local stakeholders to provide evidence-based tools supporting eating disorder recovery.

Key partnerships have played a pivotal role, notably with consumers involved in app development and recovery kit creation. The support from AUSCEP's Oliver Bazzani, guidance from Richard Macliver in navigating WA Health complexities, and insights from mentors like Kevin Pfleger and Carlo Bellini have been invaluable. The Innovations Unit's Jethro Sercombe provided coaching in human-centered service design, and local support at CCI, particularly from clinician Kasia, has been instrumental in navigating this transformative journey.

In this video we demonstrate an example of how we introduce the concept of mindsets to a client in treatment for an eating disorder, using a metaphor to illustrate the concept.  The ‘eating disorder mindset’ is strongly influenced by concerns about controlling one’s eating, as well as body weight and shape. Helping clients to identify, understand, and challenge this mindset is a key part of eating disorder treatment.

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your clinical background?

I am a clinical psychologist specialising in treating eating disorders. I manage the adult eating disorders service at the Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) in North Metropolitan Health Service and serve as the Director of Morgan Psychology. This innovative private practice is reimagining how we deliver care to individuals and families affected by eating disorders, with a focus on those in regional and remote areas of Western Australia.

What was the catalyst moment to start your innovation?

Waitlists for specialist eating disorder treatment were unacceptably long, often 6-12 months. In July 2022, with my team at CCI, I launched a workbook offering evidence-based education and cognitive behavioural therapy skills to support eating disorder recovery. The workbook's success, downloaded nearly 400,000 times in 10 months, led to the idea of creating a digital version for immediate access, sparking my application to AUSCEP and the start of an amazing journey.

What was something unexpected you learned along the way?

Navigating obstacles within the health department and enjoying the entrepreneurial journey were unexpected revelations. Engaging with diverse stakeholders, including IT departments and executives, through effective communication and community building has been key. Discovering a newfound love for creativity and balancing digital innovation with tangible tools, like the recovery kits, has revitalised my energy.

What do you believe are the most critical healthcare challenges today, and how can programs like this help address them?

The current healthcare model is unsustainable, leading to clinician burnout, inefficient systems, and long waitlists. Increasing the workforce isn't the sole solution. Programs like AUSCEP can drive innovative, cost-effective approaches, combining physical and digital elements. The challenge lies in navigating healthtech safely, ensuring privacy, but seamless services can transform mental health care.

How do you envision the future of healthcare?

I envision a future where consumers have more choices in care delivery. Augmenting face-to-face care with digital applications in mental health can provide additional, affordable options, reaching remote areas. Balancing digital platforms with physical toolkits, like the recovery kits, aims to create delightful experiences for clinicians and consumers, fostering a blend of the physical and digital.

What skills or knowledge have you gained through the program that directly impacted your innovation?

The program equipped me with compliance skills within the WA healthcare system, ensuring high data security standards for our digital tool. Learning effective communication, community building, human-centred service design, and maintaining focus amid challenges were pivotal. The value of both slow and fast-paced approaches, digital content creation, and seeking help when needed were also significant takeaways.

Share a key moment or experience from the program that influenced your approach to healthcare innovation.

A pivotal moment was when AUSCEP encouraged us to build a solution using pipe cleaners, shifting my mindset from cognitive to creative. This creative approach, paired with care, led to the development of the recovery kits, demonstrating the power of innovation rooted in genuine concern.

Any advice for clinicians interested in healthcare entrepreneurship?

Embrace obstacles as opportunities, understanding that overcoming each challenge is an integral part of the entrepreneurial journey. Focus on solving the problem rather than being overly attached to a specific solution. Engage with those affected by the problem, continuously tweaking your solution to align with their needs. Enjoy the ride; entrepreneurship is an exciting journey!

What's next for your journey as a clinical entrepreneur?

CCI is set to "go-live" with our digital application for eating disorders in January 2024. At Morgan Psychology, we're launching a pilot for our clinician portal, offering monthly digital tools to support evidence-based treatments for eating disorders. Excitingly, I'll be visiting Merredin to see our recovery kits in the Merre Granola store, marking a thrilling road trip and a milestone for our physical products.

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