Last week, we shared two installments of an interview with our CEO Darcie Peacock. The first discussed our transition to Telemedicine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also discussed how our families and clinicians are responding to this transition. Today, we’ll discuss the many benefits of remote therapy, and what’s next for Solace.
Question: What are the additional benefits of Telemedicine?
A couple of different reasons that we were looking to launch this later in the year, is because it is really beneficial, even in times not as crazy as this. And that really comes down to access and consistency. So many families do not have access to pediatric individualized one on one therapy. With interactive virtual therapy sessions, all children and families have access to the same quality of care with the same opportunities for best outcomes. Telemedicine therapy provides access to services, access to resources, access to leading professionals that they do not have in remote communities. It is also beneficial for families for other reasons. So, this was a really bad flu season, and we did have a lot of cancellations. Maybe the child wasn’t sick, but someone else in the home was. And, we certainly didn’t want to be taking that illness to other families. So, telemedicine for illness, weather events, complicated family schedules, compromised immune systems and different learning styles are a preferred choice for clinicians and families. While it’s definitely beneficial for us to have face-to-face time with them, Telemedicine is a great option for families in addition or as a stand alone therapy.
We are thrilled to offer therapy via Telehealth from this point forward so we are able to meet the needs of all families across the state of Colorado.
Question: What changes or innovations have been made or are being made to enhance remote therapy or to make up for the lack of hands on interaction?
Creativity! There’s been a tremendous amount of collaboration amongst the team and I expect it will absolutely continue. Clinicians are very flexible and really creative in nature , and so That’s just really shining through right now. So many resources are being developed and shared with each other. One family, there may be a kiddo loves Thomas the Train, and someone will create a board game on the computer that’s got Thomas the Train and all the sounds that they’re working on for this kiddo in articulation, and then they’ll post that to the rest of the team so anybody can grab that and use it, if that would work for one of their kids. So, all kinds of resources have been developed in a very short time by the team. For example, we can screen-share through our telemedicine program, which is a great way to interact and engage the child. A child can practice tracing, “check off” activities completed for their session/schedule, The therapist also works with the caregiver to provide the hands-on portion. This is so essential to implement even when our clinicians are in the home, and even more important during virtual sessions. The thing to remember here is: even when we are in the home, we are only in 1-3 times a week, on average. If we don’t engage the caregiver, if we don’t have the caregiver do more hands-on training, the potential for carryover and strategy implementation outside of the sessions is so limited. It is in the child’s best interest to have the caregiver involved and hands-on, so this is top priority for our clinicians, whether in person or via telemedicine.
Innovation wise, we were a very tech heavy company long before this, which is what I think allowed us to be successful in making this switch so quickly. We already had a HIPPA compliance platforms with accounts for all our clinicians; as well as clinicians had iPads with complete data on them. We also have provided iPads with service to families without access so they can receive quality Telemedicine and services. So, we were ready from a technology standpoint, it was really just a matter of pulling it all together, training everybody, and hitting play, basically.
Question: People are aware of OT, PT, and ST, but how do you communicate to parents who are looking for these services, but aren’t aware that these in-home services are an option?
Previous to right now in this situation, one thing we would often talk about with families who maybe are going to a clinic setting for instance – what happens there is: The therapists comes out and takes Johnny out of the waiting room and takes him back with them for an hour, and then comes back to mom in the waiting room, and says “Johnny did great today! We’re just going to keep working on x, y, and z.” But, when we’re coming into the home, working with Johnny on those same skills, but in his natural environment. And that’s what we feel like makes the world of difference. It’s not going to a new room where they have all these resources and tools and things like that, but then you just can’t translate those skills back into your daily life, or it takes longer to translate this skills. We really try to work with things that are in the home already. And, work with the parents, as I mentioned, that all those hours that we’re not there, and not supporting the family – they have the tools and resources they need to continue that work, and we just see kids make so much faster gains by providing those services in their natural environment.
Question: How about families that maybe aren’t aware of in home therapy as an option – what has their response been when introduced to telemedicine?
We had about 300 referrals come in our door last week, and that when we were still doing in – home. As we were calling those families and letting them know that the switch happened – you know, we were concerned, because they haven’t yet met our clinicians in person, and hadn’t had the opportunity to get to know us. An overwhelming response of, “well, that sounds great, let’s go ahead and proceed in that way. And then I’d love to meet them when this is all over.” Globally speaking, People are understanding more and more every day that this is serious, and it’s likely to go on for quite some time. I think families are really just thankful to have an option to continue supporting their kids during this time, and you know, if they had concerns, we know that early intervention for families, for these kids is so important. That, the earlier you can jump in and support a child who is maybe delayed in reaching their milestones, the quicker they’re going to make those gains, and the less you’re going to have to to do long-term. You know, they’re not going to have to need continued support as they get older. You know, it’s a scary time for families. If you were thinking, “gosh I should have, I was thinking about that last month, and I should have done it, and I didn’t do it, and now, what am I supposed to wait another three months before I get any help?” I think the reality is, families are really open to trying anything they can to really support their kids through this time. Let it be a time of their children thriving, and not something that makes them fall behind. I do think also, for some, when I first learned about telemedicine, I thought, “ok, I could see how this could work for speech therapy, I an see how it would work for occupational therapy, but I’m having a really hard time understanding maybe how this works for a little one with physical therapy. And, once I saw some sample sessions, I absolutely got it, and it made a huge difference for me. And so, that’s something we’ve really been working on this week is getting some visuals for families so that they can understand what this will look like for them. And really, a quick visual is all it takes, and then they’re like, “ok, I get it, let’s give this a try.” And really, there’s no harm in trying. If they decide with the clinician after the first session “I don’t see the benefit, this isn’t going to work for us,” or whatever the case may be – then, absolutely, we can follow up with them to provide home therapy visits once the quarantine is over. But, the one thing they will get out of the initial evaluation is they can talk to a pediatric specialized therapist, who can give them suggestions and strategies, for whatever the challenges are that they’re facing. But, to be honest, I haven’t heard of one family saying “this isn’t going to work for us” after they’ve tried it.
Question: What else is Solace doing to get the word out?
Word travels quickly, I have to say. A lot of our therapists know other therapists in other avenues – outpatients, other home health, school districts, just from previous jobs. And, I know a lot of them have been fielding phone calls, asking what we’re doing. So, I think there’s a lot of word of mouth happening right now. For example, I spoke with an occupational therapist who works at one of the Metro area school districts, and, at her school right now, they are working to provide therapy services; but it is still being worked out and not as timely as some children need. She is really worried about some of her kids who are highly impacted – she has a couple of kids with severe autism – and, she was proactively reaching out trying to find resources for her families, and support for them. Because, yeah, these families are at home, trying to support their kids and they don’t have any resources. So, things like that, I think we’re just really fielding a lot of calls, and people asking, “how are you doing this, what’s the availability to add kids to your services.” And then, we’ve been in touch with all of our partners. We knew 2 weeks before we went 100% telemedicine that this would be our response should the situation escalate. So, we were proactively communicating with all of our referral partners, our physician offices that we work with, to let them know that, should this – we get to this place that we’re now at, that this would be the way that we would continue to support our families. And so, they have known that and they have been reaching out to us for families who are calling them, saying, “going to this outpatient clinic is not an option, they are closing for three weeks, now what do I do?” And ,the physicians are directing them to us. We are also utilizing social media and our Marketing Team to get the word out to families with no access to effective therapy, that we are available to help immediately. We want to make sure every family knows they do have access to the best therapy services to meet any need!
Question: What else is Solace doing during these trying times to impact the community?
We work with a fair number of kiddos who are really dependent on free and reduced lunch programs at their schools. And, when we first starting hearing that some of these schools would be closing for an extended period of time, we said, “absolutely none of our kids are going to go hungry.” We’ve reached out to all of our clinicians and asked any families that they have concerns, that are going to need access to food during this time, to let us know, and we’ve been mobilizing our team to deliver food to their doorsteps. That’s been a tremendous opportunity for us to support our families in a new way. It’s absolutely heartbreaking how big the need has been, but we’ve been thrilled to be able to fill that need.We have been delivering food to families for several weeks and will continue until every family has their needs met. One more thing we’ve been doing to fill the gap, as we made this switch, there were certainly families who don’t have access to, they maybe don’t have a smart phone with a screen or they don’t have a computer with internet at home, and we have been able to send our IT team ( hands-down, the most amazing team on this planet) and they were able to ship overnight, iPads with data on them to families who don’t have access so they could continue to receive services. I believe we shipped out over 35 Ipads to those families, and are continuing to send as needed to assist new families joining us.
Question: What’s next for Solace?
Right now, 100% of the focus is really on supporting our clinicians and families, and the community, just during this really uncertain time. And so, I think the reality is that every day we’re sort of seeing more and more that we just don’t know what this is going to look like on the other side. We certainly don’t know when we’re going to get to the other side. It’s hard to know what the need is going to be at that point, but I am certain, that this is the team that will rise to that challenge – whatever it is – and we’ll work together to meet that need. We certainly had big plans for the year – like most people did – that we’re just willing and ready to flip on their head, and just adapt to the situation and see where we’re most needed as time goes on.