Embracing technology during the pandemic

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 to increase the use of technology and remote therapy to ensure we were making ourselves accessible. We were already offering assessments and some of our treatments via telephone and some video conferencing. Our plans were to have digital options available for all over the next couple of years.

During the lockdown, we moved all of our treatments to telephone and through digital means. This was a steep learning curve for our staff and service users, however a challenge embraced by both. This was supported by us all having to increase our use of video to stay in touch with friends and family.

There are many benefits to receiving therapy remotely. 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 to visit one of our bases and can access therapy from home.

One of our service users said:

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

One of our therapists said:

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

We do acknowledge that this type of treatment is not for everyone. 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. We have been piloting this during the pandemic. It is an app and we prescribe relevant tiles for our service users. These 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. 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 is important with our work that engagement is high and people don’t drop out of sessions. Giving service users more choice over their treatment means they are more likely to engage and gain a better outcome. Having the ability to upload resources means service users will have quicker access to their resources and start treatment earlier. 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 taking time to adjust but I hope there is scope for more online work!”