Embracing technology during the pandemic

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Published on: 8th October 2020

Nick Harwood (steps2change Service Manager)

In this blog, we are going to talk about how the step2change service has adapted to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic the service had plans in place to increase the use of technology and remote therapy to ensure we were making ourselves accessible to everyone.  We were already offering assessments and some of our treatments over the telephone and a small amount of video conferencing.  Our plans were to have digital options available for all over the next couple of years.

Then came the lock-down and we moved all of our treatments on to the telephone and through digital means.  This was a steep learning curve for our staff and service users, however a challenge embraced by both, supporting by us all having to increase our use of video conferencing platforms to stay in touch with friends and family.  So in essence, the plans we had to develop this part of the service happened in a matter of days rather than over the 2 years we had originally thought.

There are many benefits to receiving therapy remotely and the evidence seems to be supporting these methods for being just as effective as more traditional face to face appointments.  People no longer have to travel around the county to visit one of our bases, can access therapy from the comfort of their own home, and may not have to take time off work to attend.

One of our service users said:

“To be able to access my therapy during lock down through video has been excellent and just as good as seeing someone face to face.”

One of our therapists said:

“I was sceptical that delivering therapy through video conferencing would be effective, however I have been surprised by how well it has gone and my patients have given really good feedback.”

We do acknowledge that this type of treatment delivery is not for everyone and we have recommenced Covid-secure face to face appointments for those who cannot access therapy remotely.

One of our project streams is work with a company called Dynamic Health Systems, who have a platform called Vitrucare, which we have been piloting during the pandemic.  Essentially it is an app and we prescribe relevant tiles for our service users which include information on self-help, the type of therapies we offer, a secure messaging function, and video chat. In the future, it will include appointment reminders, therapy workbooks and a Chatbot to name just a few new functions.  It will support the delivery of your therapy and enhance the experience.  We will release more information about this exciting project as it progresses.

When asked about their experience of using Vitrucare, one Steps2Change staff member said:

“Working with digital interventions has meant I have a lot more flexibility over my diary. It has meant I have been offer face to face sessions via webcam in times of the pandemic, which previously I would have been unable to do! It is important with our work that engagement is high, and people don’t drop out of sessions. I think giving service users more choice over their treatment means they are more likely to engage and ultimately gain a better outcome. Having the ability to upload resources via an online platform means service users will have quicker access to their resources, and start treatment earlier. For me, having a webcam facility means I build better therapeutic relationships with some patients as you can pick up more non-verbal body language. It is obviously taking time to adjust but I hope there is scope for more online work in therapy!”

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