The pandemic has changed the way many companies do business and NDIS service providers are no exception.
Remote, telehealth or online services have become essential to service continuity for businesses in locked down areas. And some service providers not impacted by lockdowns continue to offer remote support for selected clients.
Transitioning to remote service provision can be challenging for both providers and clients. There are so many different approaches, platforms and things to consider. But it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Whether you are just getting started or are on a well-trodden path that just needs honing, the following tips will help you deliver exceptional service while also supporting staff.
1. Conduct a risk assessment.
With any service delivery, an astute risk assessment is required to ensure safe and effective outcomes.
A risk assessment should include:
- Privacy and data security laws
- The appropriateness of the service for each individual
- Having a suitably skilled person with the participant if required
- Cultural factors and language barriers
- Acknowledging any clients concerns and answering any questions
- Disclosing any risks associated with using online platforms
- Recording methods for permissions, session details, payments and reports.
Here is a helpful guide from the Department of Social Services.
2. Be flexible.
The only constant in life is change, according to Greek philosopher Heraclitus. That sure is true in our current environment. And with constant change comes the need for flexibility, especially when you have a diverse client base.
While it might be tempting to use a one-size-fits-all approach, this may alienate some clients. Instead, give clients several options so they can choose the method that best suits them.
- Video: If it’s practical, train staff to use several platforms so clients can use the one they are most comfortable with. Even better, use a custom platform that is secure and private (see below).
- Speak & Listen (through the National Relay Service)
- Phone if appropriate.
Custom platforms designed for medical and allied health industries include GP Consults, Powerdiary, Hothealth, Coviu or Clinico. Many send a text message when the practitioner is ready, so the client only has to click on a link to open the session. AHPA has a handy Guide to telehealth platforms.
3. Establish clear policies.
It’s essential to check that client service agreements do not prohibit telehealth or remote service provision. Service agreements may need to be updated and clearly state the responsibilities of each party for remote services.
Cancellation policies may need to be reviewed and reiterated, particularly when providers can claim for cancellation against a participant’s NDIS Plan.
4. Consider appropriate supports for participants.
Who should be with the participant to help achieve the session goals? This may be a parent, teacher, assistant, local therapist, or it may be just the participant on their own.
Do they have the necessary permissions and required skills to conduct the session effectively? What support or instructions should be supplied? Do they need to do any preparation, such as prepare equipment for a therapy session?
5. Get the technology right.
Having the right technology makes it easier for staff and provides a better experience for clients.
Not everyone is a natural in front of a camera! Staff may need technical, platform or video presentation training. Fortunately, many platforms offer online training on their websites. Ensure there is a support person available to assist with any training or delivery issues.
While some laptops/computers have built-in cameras, they are not always good quality. For example, if you provide therapy service, team members may need to zoom in when demonstrating specific exercises. Check out Choice Webcam Review for some low-cost webcam options.
It’s essential to check if the participant has the necessary technology to engage in remote sessions effectively. NDIS participants may spend up to $750 on electronic devices (up to $600 for a tablet or iPad) to maintain or improve the delivery of funded NDIS supports like a program or therapy. Providers need to confirm this in writing.
6. Reliable connectivity.
An unreliable internet connection can cause annoying last-minute issues, so it’s worthwhile testing speeds at Speedtest before scheduling any sessions.
Zoom recommends a minimum internet speed of 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps). FaceTime and Skype need 1-4 Mbps. Some platforms use mobile (cellular) data in the absence of Wi-Fi which can be costly, so be sure staff and clients know how to check whether they are on Wi-Fi or mobile data.
- Ensure team members have enough speed and data for video consultations
- Have a backup plan such as hot-spotting from a mobile or access to a portable Wi-Fi device
- For consultations that can take place either via video or phone, ensure you have a phone number for the client in case of a video fail
- Be aware of the times of day when there is congestion or disruptions and avoid scheduling consultations.
7. Minimise distractions.
Dogs barking, babies crying, notifications pinging. Sound and visual distractions can make it very difficult to communicate effectively. While it’s impossible to avoid all distractions, setting some guidelines can help.
- Be clear on what is a suitable environment for consultations to take place
- If the home or office background is unsuitable for video, use a virtual background or physical screen
- Provide a tip sheet on minimising noise, such as closing windows and turning off notifications.
- Ensure clients are in a place where they can participate before getting started
- Set expectations in the service agreement that the client must be in a suitable location before the session can start
- Set automated reminders that advise clients to be prepared early and in a quiet location free from distractions.
For more information and tips, check out the NDIS page on Connecting with and helping participants.
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