Over kinderen, hun psychische problemen, hun ouders en hun behandelaars.

OPEN: where non-professionals contribute insights that improve treatment

The Dutch Knowledge Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has initiated an ambitious new project: OPEN, the Online Patient Expertise Network. It aims to improve treatment by drawing on the experience and knowledge of children with mental health problems, their family members, teachers and others not professionally involved in psychiatry. Design Lead James Boekbinder reports on harvesting knowledge from people who don’t know they have valuable knowledge.

People outside the psychiatric field see, know and do many things that can help the creators of a psychiatric treatment protocol to make it more effective. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to predict what these things might be. A teenager’s chance remarks can open up a new way of mobilizing friend networks to support medication compliance. A chat about a TV series can suggest a way of structuring a discussion around norms that adolescents will accept and engage with. These are only two of many examples the Knowledge Centre has collected from its Experience Council of parents and non-psychiatrists.

Recognize, record, report

So how do we make people who may have little involvement with psychiatry aware that something they’ve noticed or do might have a critical added value for psychiatric treatment of young people? And once they’ve learned to recognize it, how do we make it possible for them to record and report it?

A flexible digital tool kit

The Knowledge Centre’s answer to this question is OPEN: the (Online Patient Expertise Network). OPEN is a flexible digital tool kit that will help non-professionals from all walks of life to recognize, uncover, report and discuss things that professionals can integrate into treatment protocols to improve effectiveness. It will consist of applications for handheld devices and PCs linked to a smart data model that enables the contributions to form into thematic clusters and reinforce each other.

The strength of weak ties

Among other things, we want to exploit the well-known effect of the strength of weak ties – the fact that these people are living bridges to networks far from psychiatry. The further away, the more new they contain, the greater the chance that something will turn out to be useful.

Design research – the first step

As Design Lead for OPEN, my first concern is to understand the potential form of contributions the future participants might make. What would they see, feel, think and want to say? How extensive would their contributions be? If we can understand what kind of content participants are most likely to contribute, we can tailor the system to support them at every step with the right functionalities, data model and interface designs.

For this, we’re creating a series of new design research activities. More on those in the next post.

James Boekbinder Over James Boekbinder

interaction designer | filmmaker | self-educated system thinker | first US citizen on the payroll of Lenfilm | researcher | in love with partner from Russia | content strategist | in love with Amsterdam | educator of young designers at Rotterdam University of Applied Science | in love with cat from Greece