When Dilworth Center announced its move to virtual care last spring, COO, Tammy Hanson knew it would be a challenge. The change meant more than uploading powerpoints to Zoom and sending patients links. It meant training staff on the Telehealth platform, ensuring HIPAA compliance, learning web conference best practices and creating an easily accessible, online ecosystem for patients and family members to access assemblies, lectures and group meetings. Perhaps most important, was the task of ensuring patients still felt connected to one another and to Dilworth Center through the virtual format.
Even with all the challenges, Ms. Hanson had great confidence in her staff. After 6 months of collecting data, her confidence was confirmed. Not only did the data indicate that virtual treatment is effective and satisfying, it also showed an unprecedented increase in family participation. “That was pretty incredible under the circumstances,” Hanson said.
“This does not mean patients necessarily preferred remote treatment,” she was quick to add, but that they appreciated counselors’ extra efforts to help build the new online community. “Our staff really stepped up,” she noted. “Counselors went out of their way to make sure these abrupt changes were a positive experience.”
Faced with a pandemic that upended every aspect of daily life, Dilworth Center showed
its ability to adapt, and embrace the changes. From bringing in alumni speakers to share how they’ve adapted their recovery, to implementing a patient communication platform, Dilworth Center demonstrated initiative, creativity and dedication. The success of those efforts demonstrates how quickly innovation can happen, when shared purpose and necessity meet.
The pandemic as a learning opportunity
“Within the first 48 hours of lockdown, Dilworth Center staff was challenged in many ways. Assessing staff hardware needs, creating safety protocols / operation plans, and building a social media campaign to inform stakeholders of the new tele-health system were just a few of the time sensitive needs. “This was a crash course in being flexible…realizing there are a lot of unknowns and then figuring out how to get comfortable with them,” remarked Hanson.
Addressing the challenges of change
As weeks turned into months, Dilworth Center staff had to acknowledge a huge departure from expectations. Counselors, staff and patients alike had to juggle family responsibilities, technological challenges, and adapting to the fundamental differences between in-person and online treatment. Small-group learning is an essential part of treatment. Patients lean on each other for support. “It was exciting to see our team rise to the challenge of providing our same high quality treatment -just in a different format,” Hanson stated.
Expanding virtual treatment
The virtual shift in modality led to changes in how Dilworth Center offers treatment, including changes that will last beyond the pandemic. One of these lasting changes will be offering out- of-town family members the ability to participate remotely.
“Widening family participation by involving out-of-state family members in our virtual treatment program has resulted in an unprecedented increase in family participation,” explained Hanson. “It was definitely a silver lining of the pandemic as family member participation in treatment greatly enhances a patients’ recovery. I think there is no turning back from accessing our family program remotely,” Hanson remarked.
Despite the many negatives brought on by the pandemic, it has also brought silver linings, many that will positively impact the way Dilworth Center can and will deliver treatment effectively, in the future.