Swinburne and Coviu deliver real-time chat mental health support

Tuesday 23 July 2019 by Nick Adams

Text chat therapy on a smartphone.

A partnership between Swinburne's National eTherapy Centre and Coviu will provide encrypted, real-time text chat sessions.

In summary

  • Swinburne’s National eTherapy Centre has partnered with Coviu
  • The partnership allows clinicians to interact with clients via encrypted real-time text chat sessions
  • The new service is delivered through Swinburne’s Mental Health Online

Swinburne’s National eTherapy Centre has partnered with the CSIRO medtech startup, Coviu, to allow Australians to access quality mental health services through encrypted, real-time text chat sessions.

The service is offered as part of Swinburne’s Mental Health Online, which is free for all Australians and provides access to treatment programs for common mental health issues including depression and anxiety.

Real-time text chat sessions with clinicians will now be a part of the service, alongside email, and video calls, offering an additional modality to suit a broader remit of needs within the community.  

Mental Health Online Clinical Program Manager, Lauren Rossi, says that the real-time communication with clients is a really important addition to the Mental Health Online service.

“Most of our clients are already familiar with instant messaging, which makes text-chat an attractive option for getting support.”

 Digital Mental Health Fellow at Swinburne, Dr Liz Seabrook, says that the text-chat sessions have so far been hugely successful.

“Since being rolled out in March this year, the chat sessions have become a very popular option amongst our clients. It’s now one of the most common modalities we use to support clients in completing their online mental health program. For many clients, a real-time text chat session is a practical first step into talking with a health practitioner, which for some can be quite confronting.”

Director of Mental Health Online and Deputy Director of Swinburne’s Centre for Mental Health, Associate Professor Neil Thomas, agrees.

“Our courses are designed to give people the tools to self-manage their mental health, and using them together with a practitioner helps people get the maximum out of them. We think that the medium of text chat is so popular because people can reach out to get human support without the pressure of talking or showing their face.”

CEO and co-founder of Coviu, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, says she is pleased that the new text-only chat modality added to Coviu’s video chat platform is having such a big impact. She says that while telehealth is a fantastic solution for those seeking support, it is still under-utilised in Australia.  However, text chat is further reducing barriers to its adoption.

“Our goal is to make healthcare services easily accessible and usable to all citizens, and this partnership with Swinburne’s Mental Health Online service takes us another step closer. We work hard to ensure our telehealth technology is easy to use, and are constantly looking at new ways for people to use the service. I’m thrilled to hear the text-only chat sessions are helping hundreds of people across Australia,” she says.

“As with the rest of Coviu’s offerings, our text-only conference rooms have been built with security and privacy top of mind. All data is end-to-end encrypted, and is deleted at the end of a patient’s session, unless they give permission otherwise.” 

Research has shown that up to 80 per cent of clinician visits can be provided online with comparable clinical outcomes.