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AWARE telehealth capabilities ahead of the curve with social distancing requirements

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world forever. Everyone is adjusting to the “new normal.” With the social distancing order in place, people are finding now more than ever that we really do need human connection.

Hopefully, this phase will come to an end soon, and we all can reunite. In a way, however, you almost have to stop and appreciate the beauty of this time. People are still finding means to connect whether it be with friends or for business.


Modern technology like videoconferencing and cell phones are resources helping everyone stay in touch. Challenging to some and second nature to others, these outlets have become a necessity — even for those who find the alternative a little tricky.


AWARE has found that some families have limited or no access to computers or the internet. Others have little experience using a computer. But the good news is that AWARE has patient, kind staff who are able to work with each person to ensure they receive the care they need throughout these changing times.


Technology is regularly reviewed and updated


During the last year, AWARE has taken the opportunity to research, evaluate, and further develop its telehealth system with the help of its AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. The efforts successfully support the Covid-19 telehealth trend, positioning AWARE ahead of the curve.


As AWARE manages the pandemic with technology and processes already in place, we look ahead to the next big leap in our telehealth services, breaking the geographical barriers of Montana to reach even more people.


Therapists and families are on track


AWARE was an early technology adopter back in 1998 with telepsychiatry. Over the years, case managers have regularly used the technology to connect with the 1000s of people we serve in Montana as well. Because Medicaid is allowing telehealth to be delivered in new ways due to COVID, AWARE therapists are now able to hold sessions via video and phone.


AWARE staff and the families we serve have met the challenge to this new way with an encouraging response. Therapists are able to continue offering care to those they regularly see in person. Families appreciate saving money on gas and time getting to the office.


People appreciate seeing each other over video or hearing each other through the phone.

Most use smart phones, but there is a mix of people using laptop and desktop computers to connect with the appropriate video platform. Landline phones are linking therapists to clients as well.


Telehealth offers the opportunity for therapists to become creative in providing treatments, whether holding a group or individual session. For example, one school-based therapist is helping kids understand their feelings in relation to isolation using Play Doh or pipe cleaners during individual sessions. Another is meeting people in groups over video, encouraging them to show their homes and family photos. And yet another is sending videos via email and reading books to the kids.


Staff receive regular training


Telehealth also provides a chance for AWARE staff to learn and grow. Staff are becoming fluent through the daily usage of telehealth and weekly videoconference trainings. During training, AWARE experts are online to discuss electronic health records, quality review, IT, and billing. Staff are encouraged to ask questions as well as offer insights about what’s working and what can be improved. All of this is to ensure professional and effective services to help each client live their best life.


The use of technology is among the positive outcomes for this new era. AWARE is embracing it as a fixture to ensure we all continue to stay connected and healthy.

If you’d like to learn more about AWARE’s telehealth, please contact Summer Edwards at sedwards@aware-inc.org.

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