When the coronavirus hit, healthcare practitioners across the globe were presented with an urgent challenge; adopt telehealth technology or miss out on being able to consult with and treat their patients.
As the world continues to grapple with the virus, thousands of healthcare professionals are rapidly turning 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 new “virtual” patient consultation rooms.
Today we hear from three healthcare professionals on how they’ve managed this critical time by using Australia’s leading telehealth platform Coviu to keep their entire businesses running – and in some cases, growing.
Managing mental health during a pandemic
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Ailie O’Flaherty and the team had limited experience using telehealth, and much preferred a face-to-face healthcare approach. Now, Ailie 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.”
Ailie 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,” concluded Ms O’Flaherty.
Supporting people with intellectual disabilities through COVID-19
When the severe disruption of COVID-19 was made apparent earlier this year, Jayne and the team at EdHealth Australia gravely feared how this would impact the quality of healthcare provided to some of the most vulnerable members of our community; people with intellectual disabilities.
Jayne 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, Jayne sought out an approach to improve healthcare through education and innovation; EdHealth Australia.
During the pandemic, Jayne and the staff at EdHealth turned to Coviu 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,” concluded Ms Lehmann.
Children in speech pathology find preferred methods of therapy through telehealth
Kanella Mendigorin works with children that 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, Kanella 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.
Kanella said that telehealth had 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.
Kanella 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,” concluded Ms Mendigorin.