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A Virtual Intervention Network to Treat Maternal Mental Illness

A gap in the system meant space to reimagine how care is delivered to new and expectant mothers — making assessment and symptom monitoring more accessible, allowing for earlier triage to the appropriate care.

Challenge

Maternal mental health affects a shockingly large number of people and there are a number of logistical barriers to receiving proper care. In general, there is a lack of knowledge about antenatal mental health (most people call it postpartum depression but it can affect even pregnant women). People are not open to receiving medication for treatment and general physicians are wary about treating maternal mental health because they just don’t know enough about how. Many people could be caught earlier if there were a proper system in place to assess, monitor, and triage them to the right care.

Working closely with the Chief of Psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital and the lead researcher and psychiatrist on the project, Pivot was able to understand, define, design and create a digital pathway to address this maternal mental health service issue.

Solution

We designed an academic platform meant to enroll patients by taking an assessment known as the EPDS (a well-known and validated tool), monitor them virtually, then provide care recommendations based on their assessment results. Recommendations include resources and/or treatments like self-treatment options as well as referrals to a specialist for additional care where needed.

We met with and interviewed the users, in this case antenatal women with potential symptoms of depression and/or women with a previous history of a maternal mental health condition. Learning directly from key users was an especially enlightening process in this case because it allowed us to design a tool that would be easily accessible to their unique scenarios of use. New moms and pregnant women are often on their phones googling answers or reading up on forums into the wee hours of the night. The way we designed the tool allows for ease of access and the light and warm colour palette are a friendly and inviting backdrop to a quick survey experience.

The design of the pilot includes an interface for both the patient and a care coordinator to help monitor and oversee the patients in the system.

Impact

This Pilot project is set to be completed in June 2022. As the study nears completion, the MOVIN team has reapproached us to begin the next phase — our first priority making the platform more inclusive. We have brought on Barrett and Welsh, an agency specializing in diversity and inclusion marketing/communications consulting and strategy, to audit it from a diversity and inclusion lens. We look forward to seeing their recommendations, which we will be incorporating into the platform, along with the findings that come out of the 15-month pilot.

Pivot helped us to see it from the perspectives of different potential users; different patients with different struggles at different stages, and to try to conceptualize what each person at different points in time may want from a system that we were trying to develop. Thinking about it from that perspective was very new… it really helped us hopefully design something that will make it appealing, useful, effective and easy for patients to be able to navigate”

— Psychiatrist & Head of the Perinatal Mental Health Program