Lifesize Improves Training and Expanded Care at The Shepherd Centre
Organization — The Shepherd Centre, Australia
Since 1970, The Shepherd Centre has transformed the lives of over 2,000 children who are deaf or hearing impaired. The Shepherd Centre currently works with close to 500 children with hearing loss to help them learn to listen and speak. More than 90 percent of The Shepherd Centre’s graduates enter mainstream schools and have communication ability on par with their hearing classmates. The Shepherd Centre’s 2016 graduating class was its largest ever.
Demand for The Shepherd Centre’s services continues to be high. On average, one Australian child is identified with hearing loss every day, and one in 300 Australian children will be diagnosed with hearing loss by school age. To help meet the need, The Shepherd Centre employs 70 specialists who operate from five facilities across New South Wales (NSW), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Tasmania (TAS). In addition to regional workshops, the Centre has a teleintervention program to assist families across Australia — and even beyond the country’s borders.
The Shepherd Centre implemented Lifesize video conferencing technology to enhance the care it provides to children. Finding enormous benefits for their training and care programs through video conferencing, The Shepherd Centre expanded its use of Lifesize by transitioning from the Express 220 series and on-premises infrastructure to the Lifesize Icon HD camera and phone systems and cloud-based application.
Training — Bringing the Team Together
After the transition in 2014, The Shepherd Centre further ramped up its use of video communication. On staff and clinical training days, The Shepherd Centre holds sessions at all five centers in NSW and ACT. Previously, if staff were away on a core training day, they’d have to hold more face-to-face training sessions to get everyone up to speed. Now that training sessions are recorded with Lifesize via the cloud-based recording and sharing feature, staff who missed an initial training session can log on and view both the training and all the discussion. “Lifesize has really changed the way we conduct our training program,” said Aleisha Davis, general manager of clinical programs, The Shepherd Centre. “Rather than having people fly or travel to trainings, they can join in from their regional locations. This saves time and allows the team to focus more on the children.”
The Shepherd Centre holds a weekly full clinical team meeting at all of its centers. Using Lifesize, the organization’s medical director can call in once a month from his clinic — where previously it would have been difficult for him to get the time away to join in person. “The fact that he can call in once a month and answer questions directly around the upcoming cases is life-changing for The Shepherd Centre,” said Davis. “It’s allowed us to reach out to other members of the team who haven’t always been readily available, allowing us to improve care for our children as well.”
Even the training and mentoring model has changed because of Lifesize. Previously, mentors would travel on a weekly or biweekly basis to meet with new clinicians to train them on how to work with children with hearing loss. Now, new clinicians call in to watch training sessions in progress. This type of training via Lifesize video conferencing has become standard practice for The Shepherd Centre.
“Personal support and mentoring are critical for our staff — the people who are attracted to The Shepherd Centre and working with children are those who really appreciate human contact,” said Jim Hungerford, CEO, The Shepherd Centre. “But as a charity, we can’t afford frequent trips to build up these links with 70 staff members across five centers. With the simple face-to-face contact made possible by Lifesize, we can bring people together and share our work without losing money or productive time to travel.”
In fact, the savings on travel costs afforded by Lifesize has allowed The Shepherd Centre to maintain the same amount of travel spending since 2013, despite the increase in activity across the organization.
Care — Expanding the Borders of Therapy
Stabilizing travel costs means The Shepherd Centre can provide services it couldn’t before. In particular, one word has become part of the vernacular at The Shepherd Centre — teleintervention. “We all talk about it as part of the service we provide,” said Davis. “It started for our remote families who couldn’t travel to our facilities, but now it’s expanded to families who have to work and can’t come into the session.”
The Shepherd Centre has about 27 families who attend sessions — both individual and group sessions — through teleintervention. There have even been families who started with attending face-to-face sessions and then transferred to teleintervention through Lifesize for its ease and convenience. The Shepherd Centre has seen the same level of engagement and has even reduced cancellations through its program.
Lifesize has enabled The Shepherd Centre to expand care beyond the borders of Australia as well. For families who travel overseas for up to three months out of the year, the organization can continue offering service via video. If only face-to-face meetings were used in a particular case, there would be a two to three-month gap of the year where the progress of therapy and status of hearing aids or cochlear implants couldn’t be monitored. With Lifesize video communication, therapists can keep seeing families who travel to locations like Syria and Asia for their regular sessions and monitor children’s hearing devices and language development.
“Young children need to practice their listening and language every day — and they can’t afford to lose months from their development due to their family’s relocation,” said Hungerford. “In past years, a couple may have had to live in separate cities to meet the conflicting demands of employment and therapy, but this is no longer an issue since their therapist is now available on their phone or tablet. The children we support over Lifesize develop spoken language to the same brilliant standard as the children we see in-center.”
Parents aren’t seeing the computer screen as a barrier to their children’s care, with one mother telling The Shepherd Centre, “My daughter can still participate in therapy rather than travel five hours to the appointment. The best thing about the program is the continuity of care. From my point of view it’s the same, and I’d still feel the same way if you told me via video or in person.
More Opportunity — Realizing Additional Benefits
The impact of Lifesize to The Shepherd Centre’s care programs has brought some surprises as well, particularly in how the parents get involved with their children’s care. With video communication, The Shepherd Centre can impart more information to parents about how to do hearing therapy with their children at home. “In fact, it has improved their skills in some ways more than a face-to-face model because we’re actually truly coaching the parent since they’re the ones doing everything all the time with the child,” added Davis.
The teleintervention program has also grown a sense of community among the families who use it. They call into music groups and other group therapy sessions, chat with one another and even have graduation ceremonies and Christmas parties the same way one of the regional centers would.
The next big task for The Shepherd Centre is applying Lifesize’s video recording to clinical training sessions on a broader scale. The process has begun for some individual care sessions, and of course The Shepherd Centre regularly uses these recordings for every training session. “After a successful trial last year, recording clinical sessions through Lifesize is now very much part of our practice, with close to 50 families participating in recorded sessions,” explained Davis. “This process allows family members who can’t be present at the sessions (due to work commitments, for example) to review the sessions at a time that suits them and keep up to speed with their child’s progress.”
Hungerford also sees further support internationally, adding, “As our programs are progressively adopted around the world, I expect to rely on Lifesize to enable us to support our international partners in their work, enabling them to improve their outcomes much more quickly than would be possible if we needed to travel.”
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