Well before the health outbreak of Covid-19 we were taking steps to move our service model into telehealth methods. It just happened that when we were ready to complete the published book, lodge the ISBN number, and provide public access to the book – the virus outbreak was escalating this past week across NSW and the country.
During this same week, we moved 100% of our cases to video conferencing. We found that our clients were very willing and ready, and that our coaching them to use their IPhone, Tablet, IPad, or laptop or computer, or their Android phone, was extremely welcomed under the circumstances and just ahead of the social distancing measures that are or will soon be enforced by the Australian government and perhaps also the police force.
In the past under NDIS, our service was set up to provide regional and remote Australian clinical behaviour specialist support across the New England North West of NSW. Last year, NDIS funding cuts to participants therapy provisions led us to discontinue regional clinics in the west of the New England. The NDIS rationalised these cuts by suggesting that participants had to access Medicare rebates via psychologists in the public system. However, the vast majority of practitioners do not have disability expertise and in reality NDIS participants with higher needs and complex diagnosis and support systems do not or cannot access mainstream therapy assistance. In most other cases, waiting lists are also prohibitive.
More recently NDIS changed again travel funding rules making it harder for therapists to bill time on the road – and in the region time on the road can often include at least 3 hour return trips (as a minimum to access between many regional towns). Effectively regional therapy was cut off for most of our population, leading our independent therapy business to question economic viability and sustainability.
At the same time, as senior doctoral qualified clinicians we have worked in distance education and taken degrees at universities via distance education over many years. My experience including training psychotherapists and teachers over many years at various universities, both in Australia and in Canada. Being both therapists and educators, Dr Kennedy and myself began to realise that we had to change our service model and to use existing telehealth methods and distance or online methods to provide services.
We saw this need first with our existing clients in the NENW of NSW. Many could no longer pay for our travel via their NDIS plans. Funding cuts meant that we no longer had enough bookings to bring us across region for a day clinic. These clinics allowed NDIS participants to share the travel costs, so that our actual hours on the road were covered. Without the funding, client booking decreased, clinics ended, and those who came forward for services (usually the most vulnerable and most in need of senior clinical specialist intervention) were left all that much more vulnerable due to the increased limitations of the NDIS system.
We also found that clients staff needed support, and that training time since the roll out of NDIS has been non-existent. Staff across the disability sector are now in grave need of behaviour support capacity building funded training that is case-specific. But NDIS planners appear to either not realise the extent of need or their hands appear to be tied, as funding across all cases is inadequate to allow for staff training. The long and short of this is that the disability sector is heading to crisis and disability providers across the country have already moved into a space where major compromises of care, risks to health and safety, and deaths in custody may eventuate.
In these contexts, we realised that we need to at least create a bridge to help people access the care they need from a senior behaviour specialist. We began to study the telehealth literature and to look specifically at how online systems are being deployed in behaviour support contexts. This led to writing a short and accessible book.
Then we realised that making the book free-to-air was important for most of our clients and their providers. We did not want to see yet another funding barrier set up. We made the book into a PDF document that can be downloaded from our online book platform. We also wanted to make it possible for people or companies to support our services to the most vulnerable, so when you enter the price of the book, you could offer whatever amount you like over and above $0.00. If/when we did get income from this book project we would put this into helping clients to access the help they need and to produce new resources like this in future.
About the Book
“Telehealth is one word that describes a range of communication methods that are used wherever people are in different locations. Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers, Senior Clinical Behaviour Specialist Counsellor Psychotherapist, outlines the practical “how to” of telehealth methods. He then provides a brief overview of the history of telehealth and its efficacy in clinical research with emphasis on behaviour support.”
Have you wondered if distance or online therapy was effective? Here is your answer.
Are you concerned about accessing counselling therapies or behaviour support when local practitioners are on six month waiting lists? Here is another option – find a practitioner from another location in Australia, and use telehealth methods.
Do you have questions about the effectiveness or clinical validity of telehealth to diagnose, treat, and work through behaviour support plans? Here is the best advice from two of the leading specialists in Australia in their fields that is based on reviews of the literature and many years of experience working in distance and online systems in clinical and educational-clinical contexts.
Telehealth Clinical Services in Australia is essential reading to quickly get up to speed on how to use telehealth and on its effectiveness in clinical services in disability and mental health support.
Copyright Notice: © 2020 Joseph Randolph Bowers and Dwayne Andrew Kennedy. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. This information may be copied for study purposes or to share for information, must not be modified, and must not be used for commercial purpose or sold. Please cite the work if making quotations or using information in any way. Thank you.
PDF, 725 KB
Payment Note: Payment is set at $0.00+ meaning the product is free and you can offer a “higher price” as you choose to support Ability Therapy Specialists Pty Ltd in our work in disability and mental health support. ATS Pty Ltd functions as a social enterprise where the majority of our revenue goes into services for people with disabilities and mental health needs in rural and remote Australia.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Dr Joseph Randolph Bowers PhD, MEd Couns, GCHE, BA Distinction, CPNLP, HACA, is a Senior Behaviour Specialist Counsellor Psychotherapist. Dr Bowers is a clinical disability and mental health specialist with emphasis on human development and relational support. Dr Bowers is an author of over 200 works including several books in the areas of counselling, health, and cultural methods in therapy.
Dr Dwayne Andrew Kennedy PhD, MEd Hon Couns, BCouns, BEd, BTeach, Cert III Disabilities, Cert III Childcare, Cert III Welfare, is a Behaviour Specialist Counsellor Psychotherapist. Dr Kennedy is an early childhood specialist with emphasis on coaching parents-children through clinical support and capacity building.