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Contributed by
Pace

Overview

Pace is a children's charity that works to transform the lives of children and young people with motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy. Pace provides education, therapy, and family support for children and young people with sensory-motor disorders.

The teletherapy project was designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, children had limited or no access to their usual therapy and families were left supporting their children at home.

Pace looked at how it could provide high-quality therapy and family support to children and young people across the country, in a way that did not expose them to increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Pace quickly set up a teletherapy service using video calls to provide goal centred therapy straight into families’ homes. The service also provided parent teaching using webinars.

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since January 2021.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe Pace’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As part of the therapy team, I need to offer advice and deliver support remotely
  • As a service user, I need to access support and advice remotely
  • As a parent, I need my child to continue getting support in a safe way

Software and tools used

Microsoft 365

Formerly known as Office 365, Microsoft’s suite of office and administrative software includes Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and SharePoint alongside the traditional programmes of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Cost

Microsoft 365 is available through a number of different tiered subscriptions, which vary in price.

Microsoft 365 Basic is available for free but lacks some of the functionality required to put more complex recipes into operation.

The most basic paid plan, Microsoft 365 Business Basic, starts at £3.80 per user per month. This includes increased file storage, recordings and unlimited meeting times.

Microsoft 365 subscriptions are available at discounted charity rates through the Charity Digital Exchange programme.

You can view more info on Microsoft 365 pricing here.

Considerations

The main benefit of Microsoft 365 is that it is already established in many organisations. Staff may already be used to using it and IT systems may already be set up on Microsoft 365.

Its various applications interrelate, which can be helpful.

The security and reliability is often considered better than that offered by alternative platforms, especially when it comes to the handling of data.

Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams actively update systems to add in new features and functions.

Frequent updates hinder staff and clients who are not tech confident. Some staff and users may have a bias against Microsoft in favour of other platforms due to personal preference.

Recipe steps

1. Decide how you will make the switch

Set up a core team that can look into the key issues you are trying to resolve. For example, this team will consider how families come to you, how will they contact you and what service you are providing. This helps you to understand the pathways that users will have to take when accessing your service. You can then create processes to ensure that each of the steps the user takes is as smooth as possible. The findings from the core team can then be relayed to the wider team.

Appoint someone from your team who has expertise in therapy or delivering your service but also can work with or on the IT systems you are implementing. This is helpful because they can understand the delivery needs and find suitable software to meet these needs.

2. Consider hardware and systems

Choose something that is compatible with your charity’s needs or something that your team is used to, especially if the change is quite reactive, like in the case of moving online due to COVID-19.

Make it futureproof and think about how the software can help your charity outside of the remote sessions you are holding. You can also enable the software to provide additional support for your users. For example, families who have teletherapy are also able to use Microsoft Teams to chat with therapists and access documents that have been uploaded.

Having a place where shared documentation is available reduces the difficulties of paperwork getting lost.

Furthermore, video calls can be recorded and families can re-watch these at any time. User accounts also mean that your charity can help should your user forget their password.

Make sure your processes and your software are secure so that no data is leaked.

3. Train your team

Be aware that not all people learn in the same way, therefore you should be flexible when training staff and volunteers.

You can start with an initial distribution of a video recording for the introduction of how to use Microsoft Teams. For some people though, 1:1 video support may be necessary. If safe, you can also train your staff in person on how to use different functions of Microsoft 365.

4. Train the families

Have introductory calls about how to get service users online. Begin with offering free sessions before the therapy appointment to make sure they are happy with the systems and are set up correctly beforehand, to reduce the chances of issues occurring within the teletherapy.

Make sure that the software is simple for service users, as you want the session to be the main focus, not technical issues. Make sure you have someone as a point of call in your team for users to contact if they do encounter technical issues, as not having back up procedures in place could lead to drop-off.

5. Hold session

As a therapist, you should be open to what a therapy session might look like. If you have in mind a typical physiotherapy session, for example, you will have to alter this dramatically to provide the service virtually.

Record video sessions so that people can watch the teletherapy back if they have missed anything.

6. Feedback

Gather feedback throughout the user journey both from users and also from therapists.

Organise meetings with therapists to look into what is going well and where the process’ strengths lie.

7. Reflect on what you’ve done

Once you feel comfortable with your virtual systems, you can start thinking about the future and the next steps.

Consider how your service can be made into a hybrid model, where digital can be used alongside physical or in-person sessions.

For some families who may live far from your service HQ, virtual sessions may be the best option. Equally, additional staff assisting in therapy can be present over a video call, even if the session is in person.

Guidance

Be aware that people’s views on virtual therapy sessions will have changed. For example, during the first lockdown, people may have been uncertain about therapy sessions via video call, especially physiotherapy. Having said this, you may still need to change perceptions of what therapy will be like and help encourage people to see the benefits.

Make sure families know where to go when there are IT issues. People don’t want to be fumbling with technical problems and feel unsupported by you.

Don’t be swayed by cheap technology – it’s so much better in the long term to invest in good quality tech to ensure that sessions can be as smooth as possible.

Risks

The software not working or not being set up properly. People will walk away and this will fulfil their expectations that teletherapy “isn’t for them”.

Some things are not always possible online. Think about some of the limitations of online therapy and draw lines where certain problems with the user have to be dealt with face-to-face.

Think about safeguarding concerns if you see a child who may be at harm because they have physical signs of abuse. Here, someone needs to physically inspect what might be happening.

Points of contact

For further information about this recipe, you can contact:

Luke Thompson

Thanks

Many thanks to Pace for contributing this recipe.

Licence

This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and Pace and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on April 16th, 2021. Last updated April 16th, 2021