Preparing for Telehealth (for Parents)
Updated: Mar 22
COVID-19 has definitely rocked the world, huh? It almost feels like everything has been shaken but at the same time we find ourselves on a standstill.
Events are being cancelled, so many of us are choosing to stay indoors (good on you! But if you’re one of the many others who unfortunately cannot stay indoors no matter how much you want to because duty calls, my hat off to you!), there’s a mini-series of Hunger Games going on in grocery stores, and we are riddled with uncertainty! Everyone is uncertain. There is no definite answer.
What I can say, though, is that there is a definite unity behind the scenes within the healthcare industry (I can say this because I’ve witnessed it myself!). I am so very, very proud of the Allied Health Community; over the past week there have been countless virtual meetings and brainstorming, sharing ideas, listening to each other and inspiring one another to keep going. I am in awe of the passion and compassion found in every healthcare provider, and I feel so humbled and grateful to be part of this community.
Let me share a glimpse: behind the scenes, your therapists, counsellors, support workers, and other members of your medical/health team are exploring ways to continue serving you through quality procedures, and they won’t stop. We won’t stop. We acknowledge that even if events and get-togethers have to be put on pause, your medical and health goals/needs cannot afford a break. There is still much to be done, and we have committed to continue providing quality services to you to the best of our ability.
This is where Telehealth enters. I’m sure you’ve heard of this word (possibly for the first time ever) countless of times in the past week. It’s all the buzz now! Which is exciting! The healthcare world is finally waking up to the fact that technology is a useful tool in health-related service delivery.
If you’re a parent wondering about this (your therapists may have mentioned in their e-mail blasts this week that they are offering this as a model for continuing services), then you’re just in luck! This post is dedicated to you and written for you.
I understand the uncertainty towards anything new and uncharted, so here’s a quick list for you to peruse which may hopefully shed some light on telehealth/teletherapy. In addition, you may want to read this blog post of mine which enumerates some prominent research about conducting telehealth services (especially for children).
1. Check your internet. This is essential, as video conferencing will be painful if the internet connection is weak. Most internet providers/telcos have recently announced special discounts/deals due to the struggle with COVID-19, so this would be the best time to really look into your internet connection. I am no IT professional (because I’m an OT – haha bad joke), so I won’t be able to go into much detail on how to check this unfortunately. Please call your telecommunications company (Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile, etc) for more details.
2. Check your equipment. For a successful session, you will need: a laptop or computer or tablet or phone (this one being the least preferred), a web camera (most laptops and tablets have one in-built, but some computers may require an external one), a microphone, earphones or speakers (almost all smartphones come with a headphone which includes a microphone, and almost all laptops/tablets have their own built-in speakers).
3. Check your environment. Unfortunately teletherapy will not be successful if you set your laptop/tablet in the kitchen where there is much traffic. Identify and dedicate a quiet space in your home for you to set-up your devices. This should be clear of clutter, have good lighting, and have space for you to place your device where you and your child can be captured by the camera. Treat your teletherapy sessions with the same importance as your in-person sessions. Work together with the therapist to ensure that the session can run as smoothly as possible.
4. Discuss with your therapist/provider what their plan or choice of software (also called platform) for conducting the video conference will be/is. Until recently I have been using Zoom however after the week that has passed and alongside insight from my colleagues, I have decided to change platforms. From 23 March 2020, I will be using Coviu; it is Australian-made and Australia-based. It has better security features and is easier to use. Please be mindful of what software is being used to deliver Telehealth – not many are secure. Programs like Skype or even basic Facetime do not meet the privacy and security standards. Be cautious.
5. Check your e-mails. If you used to only check your e-mails once in a blue moon, now is the time to start the habit of checking them more often. Your healthcare providers will be relying on sending e-mails for constant updates. This pandemic has shown us that things can change in a moment, and it is so much easier for us therapists to reach you via e-mail than SMS/phone calls. Often, providers would also send steps or tutorials via e-mail. More importantly, they may send you important information regarding your next session such as things they might need you to prepare prior to the session (toys or other resources). There is only so much we can convey via text and calling everyone takes more time than writing an e-mail. So please, please, check your e-mails!
6. Be ready to troubleshoot. It is best-practice for therapists to provide time with you prior to a paid session that is dedicated towards helping you set-up your space and trial the programs they choose to use for conducting their service. Be ready to spend some time tinkering with your devices and learning how the program runs.
There you go, six basic steps to prepare for your transition. There could be more, and I trust your therapists will be applying best-practice methods and walk you through every single step.
It’s a time of learning; after all, change is the only permanent thing in this world, right?
If you want the tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version, check out this quick list in image format: