The Advisory Board of Neighbors of GGZ Drenthe

App voor Naasten GGZ

“Making the information more accessible through the App is easy and people can find it more easily. Right now over 500 loved ones are using the App and we have a lot more access to this audience.”

An app for Neighbors

GGZ Drenthe’s Neighborhood Advisory Council launched the 2023 NeighborApp. An innovative way to connect with a hard-to-reach audience. By now (March 2024) more than 500 loved ones are using the App and there is much more connection with this sometimes elusive target group. We spoke with the initiators about this successful project.

Can you talk a little more about the mental health and the Neighborhood Advisory Council?

The Neighbors Advisory Council is part of GGZ Drenthe. GGZ Drenthe is an organization for 2e and 3e line of care in psychiatry. This means that they are often people with substantial psychiatric illnesses.

The Advisory Council is there for anyone involved with a client. Not only family, but also neighbors, concerned soccer coach, etc. In short: loved ones.

The Advisory Council grew out of the Side Involvement Council. This was founded in 2015, but bled to death a bit. It was difficult to get new people and the council was aging. We then wrote a plan that included good input from loved ones. The Neighborhood Advisory Council then emerged from that.

The Advisory Board consists of 4 legs: The Neighbors (this includes the App), Attention Officers Neighbors, Research & Development and External Contacts.

Informing loved ones and bringing them together with an App, how did this happen?

We needed a transition. We wanted to keep up with the times and things had to be different.

We first had the Stammtisch. This is a platform for patients to create an online tribal table, both professional and informal. But this unfortunately did not get off the ground due to various circumstances.

Our goal is to keep loved ones well informed and to help whenever possible. In addition, we wanted to increase the participation of Neighbors so we know what they want.

We always had a list of loved ones, but that is only a very small portion of all loved ones within GGZ Drenthe. We used to make these lists manually at meetings for loved ones. That went pretty hard. It yielded only a handful of neighbors. Surely co-determination with only 7 loved ones at the table is not really what you want.

In the meantime, that is totally different. Making the information more accessible through the App is easy and people can find it more easily. Currently, more than 500 loved ones use the App and we have much more access to this audience.

Our goal is to keep loved ones well informed and to help whenever possible. In addition, we wanted to increase the participation of loved ones so we know what they want. Co-determination with only 7 loved ones at the table is not really what you want anyway”

Why did you decide to deploy an App?

From the client council, the word Socie App came along during this process. An App it already used itself for internal communications. The previous director was immediately enthusiastic. We did want to move forward with that.

One of the first things we wanted to know was whether the App could be active with the outside world. When this became clear, the current director took over the enthusiasm for the App. A project officer was hired to fly the project and the first steps could be taken.

First, we worked with the Advisory Council and Socie to see what should be in such an App and what it should meet. We were looking for an App to connect with loved ones, inform clients and create interaction. In doing so, the App had to be secure and accessible to the target audience. We don’t know the loved ones, so the App should be easy to find and feel familiar.

We also wanted to know what loved ones thought. This is sometimes different from what the organization can come up with. Therefore, we involved a group of loved ones in testing and setting up the first version of the App.

How did the setup of the App go?

The start has been a collaboration between the GGZ Drenthe, Socie and some loved ones. This proceeded in a pleasant cooperation, method and atmosphere. The enthusiasm was great at both Socie and GGZ Drenthe. The App was worked on step by step with our communications department providing content such as images and text. As a result, a professional App stood immediately.

How did the rollout of the App go?

First, testing was done in a pilot group, with the loved ones also already in this group. That went well right from the start and only good results came out of that. We made some more minor adjustments to the App. We then had a meeting where the App was officially launched.

We also handed out leaflets, flyers and banners with QR codes in all departments. We actively engaged in communication. This made for a very nice start and quite a few neighbors in the App.

We also started working a lot with our own contacts. This resulted in several interviews and eventually it went national.

How were the initial reactions to the App?

In fact, we’ve had nothing but positive feedback. There have been very few negative reactions. Some people sometimes just wonder how we set this up, from the co-determination council. Some find it inconvenient that we now do this through a digital platform, we notice that very occasionally.

But sometimes you have to make choices. Now we have access to more than 500 loved ones. And it has also been used to attract new volunteers. We need people on the Neighborhood Council. We are in a new era. This is the best way to show that things can be done differently. Modern with new techniques.

De Adviesraad Naasten van GGZ Drenthe

Who manages or administers the App?

Manon does. (Manon Hens, ed.) We discuss the content every Tuesday and then Manon posts the content. Manon is also now getting content from many different sources for inclusion in the App.

There is close contact with the communications department but also visibility into national news. We are monitoring the channels from all sides. Departments are also increasingly able to find us. The Advisory Board Neighbors meet every 6 weeks and they also provide content for in the App.

Sometimes it’s still a bit of a search as to what is involved and what we want with it. We are currently practicing how to put things most attractively in the App etc. We have videos, for example, and we still want to start posting experiences of loved ones. This is still quite a challenge. We also regularly look at the statistics to see what all users are viewing/visiting the most so we know what’s working and what’s not. It is a process.

How do you deploy the App, what components do you use?

The biggest gain of the App is that we have 1 platform where there is all the information that loved ones need and it is always up-to-date. Internet is very big. Information from the Internet is not always accurate. Our information (as far as we know) is always reliable.

We share documents such as brochures, protocols or other items and allow loved ones to respond to them via the App if necessary.

The diary is also really handy. Online webinars can be scheduled and taken from each other. Also news, events (internal and external) and workshops are all in the App with a possible link to a registration form.

We also let people have a say on statements through a poll. And we use the “Think Along” option where people can post their own ideas. In addition, there is a frequently asked questions section.

The groups functionality where people can talk to each other is still off. We hope to add this feature to the App very soon. This is in high demand. That will be another nice addition to the App. Then loved ones can safely interact with each other.

How do you like the use of the App so far?

Very good. It is still a rollercoaster, but the App works heartily. New signups are coming in daily for the App and we see people looking up and reviewing things. That’s really against all odds. We can now really see that all those loved ones we want to help can actually find our platform.

What did the App give you or what does the App give you?

The loved ones feel increasingly seen and heard. This is very nice when registering for courses. For example, through the invitation letter of a course, people also enter the App, via the QR code on the letter.

Of course, our team has also become more modern with Manon as the force behind the App. And contacts with other mental health institutions have been greatly increased. We are now trying to maintain that connection. Knowledge exchange with other institutions is very nice. Trainings and modules can be shared and adopted. It is a nice side benefit that there is now much more connection with neighbors (Raadden) from Groningen and Maastricht, for example.

Could you recommend the App to other organizations?

Yes definitely. For us, a new world has emerged. It does take adjustment, some bumps over, but it is well worth it. We currently recommend the App to dozens of organizations. This requires quite a lot of time now but we are happy to do it. And for technical questions, we refer organizations to Socie.

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William van Rijn

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This is a staging environment