Three perspectives on treating via telehealth
The COVID-19 crisis presented healthcare practitioners across the globe with an urgent challenge: adopt telehealth technology or miss out on being able to consult and treat patients.
As the world continues to grapple with the virus, thousands of healthcare professionals have turned to telehealth technology to maintain business and continuity of care with their patients, all from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Spare rooms and home offices have been transformed into the virtual patient consultation rooms.
Three healthcare professionals — adopting telehealth platform Coviu — describe how they’ve managed to keep their businesses running — and in some cases, growing...
Ailie O’Flaherty works as a Psychologist at Esteem Psychology, a Newcastle-based clinical psychology practice.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, O’Flaherty and the team had limited experience using telehealth and much preferred a face-to-face healthcare approach. Now, O’Flaherty describes the technology as ‘mainstream’ and says she will continue using it as a regular part of her practice.
“For people in lockdown under pandemic conditions, telehealth has opened up the opportunity to access much-needed mental health support. We’ve had positive feedback from clients that telehealth is as good as a face-to-face session. They feel connected to their therapist and some even prefer the flexibility of being able to have the session wherever they are. For our clinicians, it’s also allowed greater flexibility in service provision.”
O’Flaherty and her team have learnt to make minor adjustments in how they conduct remote consultations.
“We have learnt to emphasise facial expressions and hand gestures, learnt that lighting and sound quality are important and have admired ourselves and our clients for having greater adaptability than initially expected under the challenging circumstances.
“The Coviu system is very easy to use for both the clinician and client, which is essential for a telehealth scenario.”
Intellectual disability support
Registered Nurse Jayne Lehmann is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator and Director of EdHealth Australia.
When the severe disruption of COVID-19 was made apparent earlier this year, Lehmann and the team at EdHealth Australia gravely feared how this would impact the quality of health care provided to some of the most vulnerable members of our community — people with intellectual disabilities.
Lehmann founded the company in 1996 shortly after her daughter Sarah was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome. With Sarah having a severe intellectual disability and a gait problem requiring the use of a wheelchair when she needed to walk any distance, Lehmann sought out an approach to improve health care through education and innovation: EdHealth Australia.
During the pandemic, Lehmann and the staff at EdHealth turned to telehealth consultations to stay connected with their clients and provide the continued support that was needed.
“I would connect with small groups of participants via the Coviu platform and evaluate their skills online. Coviu helped me create the final piece of the online infrastructure puzzle to deliver our program across Australia.
“I am busier than ever, especially with the COVID-19 restrictions creating increased demand for online training, where social distancing can be maintained. Negotiations are now advancing for organisations to enter a licensing agreement to utilise my model to deliver these services in other states and territories.
“Replicating models that work will help us to improve the health of people with intellectual disability because so few people have the knowledge, skills and desire to achieve these advances,” Lehmann concluded.
Paediatric speech pathology
Kanella Mendigorin is a Paediatric Speech Pathologist at Shine Early Intervention in south-west Sydney.
Mendigorin works with children who have special needs and learning difficulties alongside occupational therapists, music therapists and social workers to help children overcome barriers to growth.
Known for their physical therapy, Mendigorin and the team at Shine Early Intervention were extremely concerned about the impact that the pandemic could have on the children they were treating. Social distancing regulations meant the ability to provide therapy through physical activities at the centre was completely stripped away.
Mendigorin said that telehealth provided a way to continue business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Without telehealth through Coviu, we would not have been able to provide services for many people, and our business would have suffered greatly. We’ve since found incredible ways of promoting growth and learning from a distance through the technology.
“Telehealth has allowed me to use more visual material as well as create more visual material, songs and YouTube games to support my clients. It’s also allowed me to provide small, online social skills groups for the first time. These online groups allow me to match children that suit each other, keep costs down, see children more often and reduce the stress of transitioning to a new place by working on social skills with other children, while still staying at home,” she said.
Mendigorin found that telehealth services actually work better for some children with severe social anxiety and learning difficulties, and says she will continue to offer remote consultations post-COVID to children who prefer this method of therapy.
“One boy with autism spectrum disorder dislikes the embarrassment of working on his social skills at school with a therapist, and now enjoys working on his social skills online with another boy of the same age, and his classmates are none the wiser. Another boy dislikes working on reading with paper materials but enjoys playing reading games online during therapy.”
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