We’ve all experienced the effects Covid-19 has had on businesses in every industry—sending leadership scrambling to adapt business models and remain productive amid shelter-in-place quarantines and social distancing directives. Like everyone in the healthcare field, addiction treatment centers have had to make a number of adjustments to keep patients and staff safe while keeping their essential operations running.
For many in the healthcare field, the ability to serve patients has been deeply hurt by the restrictions of the pandemic (including addiction, mental health, senior living, dentistry, women’s care, and autism treatment). As a technology company who has long been comfortable working in remote environments and who serves clients in these healthcare sectors, we wanted to share our perspectives and advice that can assist your facility during this pandemic and beyond.
Technology That Gets You In the Room
Without video conferencing, many businesses would simply not be able to function at all. Fortunately, the lack of face-to-face communication doesn’t mean effective interaction cannot take place. Virtual counseling with existing and prospective patients enables you to remain accessible and provide information. It’s quite possible that when we look back on these events, virtual counseling will be remembered as a key component that kept everything together.
If you’re making use of virtual counseling (and you should), be sure that all current and prospective patients know about it. Send out emails discussing this valuable form of communication. Get on social media and talk it up. Add it as a service to your website and public business listings such as your Google My Business Account. Discuss how it works and reinforce why it’s beneficial.
The Benefits of Virtual Counseling for Addiction Treatment Centers
First and foremost you have delivered an immediate source of help for those in need of treatment
A visual connection to you and your professional space serves to underscore your trust level with new patients
The patient and the counselor can conduct the session from any location and from any device
It’s easy to invite patients to a session through SMS or email
Patients can wait in virtual waiting rooms for their session to begin
Sharing images and documents is easy
Sessions can be recorded and reviewed at a later date when necessary
Using Zoom for Addiction Treatment Counseling
The most prominent, across the board shift—after social distancing and stay-at-home orders—is the use of Zoom Meetings. This platform has been adopted by businesses and organizations of all sizes and types, as well as the general public, to stay connected.
Every day we see more people coming on to the platform with creative solutions to continuing life as a normal—hosting everything from family hangouts, to birthdays, workouts, and a thousand other things. Of course there are many platform options available, but like most of the world Dreamscape has adopted Zoom, and uses it for everything from employee hangouts to converting major conferences into virtual events like we did last month with Innovations in Recovery.
In addition to its wide adoption, which means most patients will already be comfortable using the platform to some degree or another, the company also offers a version tailored to the needs of healthcare organizations aptly titled Zoom for Healthcare.
Zoom for Healthcare Key Features:
Consistent high-quality video (even in low bandwidth environments)
Enhanced collaboration features with additional clinicians
HIPAA compliant and secure encryption
Seamlessly integrates with telehealth workflows
Record sessions for consultation and review
Tips for Effective Addiction Treatment Virtual Counseling
We’ve seen a lot of Zoom conferencing lately, especially from late-show comedians. Attempting to keep their shows on the air from home, the comedians’ efforts range from cringe-worthy home movies with poor audio to intimate, soul-searching interviews conducted through Zoom. After some missteps, the shows quickly took on a more professional appearance even though they were originating from the comedians’ homes. It’s possible to take some lessons from their experiences for your virtual consultations:
Select the right room for being on Zoom: You need to be in a room with good lighting. Harsh shadows will be displeasing for patients to see. If your meeting space options are limited and less than desirable, inexpensive and easy to use desktop lighting (ring lights) and professional microphones that connect right to your computer by usb are also readily available through online vendors.
Don’t select a room where your voice echoes: This makes it harder for viewers to understand you and, on a subconscious level, makes you look less professional.
Do some “set design” if necessary: Don’t show patients a cluttered background—it projects a poor image of you and your facility. Keep your background sparse so that it’s not distracting.
Don’t be too far away from the web camera: The farther you are away from the mic, the worse your audio will sound.
Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome . . . Until Every Battle Is Won
If this headline sounds familiar, it should, it’s the mantra of the United States Marine Corps. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that people are extremely adaptable and, when tested, we are much more capable of overcoming challenges than we would have ever imagined.
When the daily routines of life and business were suddenly thrown into disarray, we rose to the challenge and found ways to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Telehealth counseling for addiction treatment is one of the best examples of this, successfully maintaining connection, support, and trust with treatment seekers, current patients, and alumni.
Not Just Consultation, but Education, Socialization, and . . . ?
Delivering addiction treatment is the solution to the problem at hand, but don’t stop there. With time and use, our unique creativity begins to see ways the platform can be stretched beyond its original intent.
At Dreamscape, Zoom was adopted to host webinars, but very quickly it was expanded for use in morale-building employee activities, meetings, podcasts, social media, and training.
Although social distancing is temporary, telehealth is a permanent part of the future in healthcare. So thinking of it as an added tool in your bag, as opposed to a temporary solution to a specific problem, will evolve your practice in new and valuable ways.
Beyond virtual counseling we are seeing behavioral and mental health programs use platforms like Zoom to create video presentations, both live and recorded, for internal training, professional panel discussions, and patient content for websites and social media.
As mental health professionals you each have a real opportunity to take the tools in front of you, bend them with your unique perspective and need, and bring a novel solution to the world that could positively impact thousands of people.