What does it take to effectively transition patients to Virtual Health? Trust, creativity and safety, says Kim Williams, clinical operations manager with Looking Glass Residence, a mental health program at BC Children's Hospital. They are the same building blocks for effective treatment that Kim and her team work hard to build and maintain every day.
Looking Glass Residence provides an eating disorder treatment program for 16-24 year olds from across B.C. It is staffed by medical and mental health professionals with expertise in eating disorders, and 24/7 care and support is provided. The average stay at Looking Glass is 90 days, with pre-stay and post-stay programs offered as well.
On March 19, given the rising number of COVID-19 cases, Kim and her team decided to discharge their patients to their homes and provide virtual programming - formalizing plans that already been in the works to accommodate out-of-town patients and families.
"That same day, we held an impromptu two-hour staff meeting to develop our virtual program," explains Kim. "We planned what groups, meal supports and individual sessions to offer. Patients were included in the planning, and provided feedback as to what would be helpful and what guidelines and expectations were needed to encourage safety and recovery."
The transition to Virtual Health was a smooth one for their patients - especially those who had spent time within the residence and trusted the staff. For newly-referred patients, it took about six weeks to build rapport and become familiar with staff and the process.
"Some of them mentioned that it was easier to share and contribute to the group discussion as it felt safer behind a screen," says Kim. "We also found it helpful to use some of the Zoom for Healthcare features, such as 'hide self' so patients don't have to look at themselves onscreen, and 'breakout rooms' if we wanted to break the group into smaller group discussions or smaller group meal support. We also found playing games during sessions helped participants relax."
From eating four meals a day together over Zoom, to having individual sessions with caregivers by phone - the staff tried to replicate their in-person treatment program as much as possible. Their patients have noticed.
"I wanted to let you know how valuable I have found having the Looking Glass Residence virtual program," writes one Looking Glass patient. "While it is important to learn the skills needed to remain consistent in recovery, I believe it is even more essential to have the chance to practice them in our home environment, before being discharged and having to try them out on our own… Just knowing that I could call the staff anytime when I needed extra support during my day, was so helpful."
Raymond Boutet, Program Director, Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program and Looking Glass Residence, is proud of the work Kim and her team has accomplished at Looking Glass Residence.
"Staff went above and beyond to plan, develop and implement the virtual program, as well as problem-solve challenges that came up along the way," says Kim.
The Office of Virtual Health leads and provides strategic direction for the overall Virtual Health initiative across PHSA. For more information, please visit the OVH webpage
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