Journey into Technology
When I joined my organisation in August 2015, I was surprised to find that there was no access to technology, either as a therapy approach or for AAC needs.
An IPad had been purchased for the team, but it had no apps loaded onto it, and there were no plans to try and develop its use, as no one knew much about how it worked.
I determined to improve this situation in 2016 before the CITCEN toolkit was devised, but its development helped me greatly over the two years that it took to move our service forwards. I will outline the steps that I took and how I used the toolkit along the way.
- Identify a person to advocate for this service development.
Shortly after I joined the team, there was a new development with an increase in staffing of 1.0 wte at Band 6, and 0.75 at Band 4. This reflected a commitment from the company to invest further in SLT. The increase in staff allowed the team to significantly reduce waiting lists and demonstrate we were managing the service efficiently, and provided some time and resource to pursue service development activities. I recognised that we would need to have someone dedicated to improving access to technology, so in 2016 I included it in my appraisal, allowing me the time and resources to focus on it, and ensuring that my managers would be aware of what I was doing.
- Identify goals:
My first step then was to identify achievable steps to improve the situation. I chose these goals as I felt each was manageable, and at each step we would have achieved some improvement, but each would also act as a launch-pad for the next.
- Have some therapy apps on the IPad that could be used in individual therapy sessions with clients. As there was only 1 IPad this could not be loaned out, but the addition of the B4 therapist would allow a higher frequency of use than we had previously been able to offer. It would also allow clients to try out an app that they may then consider purchasing for themselves
- Increase the number of Ipads so that there would be at least 1 available to loan out to clients for therapy
- Establish an assessment kit of AAC equipment to facilitate appropriate assessments. This became more urgent with the changes to BCAS admission criteria and a higher number of clients requiring local assessment.
- Establish a route for procurement for AAC equipment that can be available for permanent loan for those clients who are not eligible for BCAS and who require long term loan of equipment
- Capitalise on opportunities:
With one person focussing on the issues and looking for opportunities to develop services, we were able to arrange some key meetings with our senior managers to explain the issues. This then led to a chance to present a case to our Clinical Cabinet Forum, who all agreed that for a relatively small cost, we could significantly improve services. This occurred at the end of the 2017 financial year, when some funds suddenly became available and we were able to put in an order for additional IPads and therapy apps. As is often the case at this time of year, it needed to be in within days, so I was very glad that I had a list ‘at the ready’ of what we wanted, so it could be quickly arranged.
The organisation was also using the team I sit within as test subjects to use IPads for mobile working. This allowed us all to load free apps and get familiar with the devices.
- Find your champions:
There is often someone, somewhere in an organisation that has the skills, authority and interest to help you take a project forward. It is just a case of finding them, and in order to do that, you need to show your idea to as many people as possible and promote its benefits at every opportunity.
A year later I was able to make good use of European SLT Day with a focus on AAC, and have a presence at our organisations ‘Good News’ Event on the same day. This gave me a chance to highlight the positive advancements with the therapy apps, and also the gaps outstanding with AAC. Some of the managers who had remembered my presentation at the Clinical Cabinet Forum then ensured I met with some key people who helped progress the case forwards, and our new Team Manager also advocated for the service with a positive outcome.
As well as receiving some equipment from MNDA for assessments, we were also awarded some ‘end of year financing’ by having the right conversations at the right time with the right people.
We now have an assessment kit available to use, and also a few items that can go out on loan to clients permanently, including an ETran frame, Allora and Go Talks, plus some additional apps such as Predictable and GoTalkNow, which will go on IPads we will purchase with profit from training courses. Discussions are ongoing regarding a route for procurement in the future.
- Be patient and persistent:
There were many hurdles along the way, and as a member of CITCEN I was able to gain support and ideas from the emerging toolkit, which allowed me to discuss issues with Ipads and app downloads in an informed way with IT and finance departments. I was also able to demonstrate that I understood issues around security and governance, and the NICE guidelines.
Apps were purchased through our company’s VPP account so that they will not be lost if a member of staff leaves, and this has already proved very useful when one team member did leave. Our IT team went on training specifically to learn how to do it, as it was a first for them too.
The Toolkit allowed me to anticipate certain issues and provide solutions before they became a problem, and this allowed me to build a good working relationship with IT.
Unfortunately the Wannacry virus and a rollout of laptops to everyone in our company slowed down our project, but we now have all apps installed and ready to loan out.
The Toolkit is also helping me to form a process for loan and training for staff.
Toolkit items used:
Downloads: Contracts / Guide to Managing IPads / Templates for reporting outcomes
Solutions: Insurance / Confidentiality / Apps
Plus support of CITCEN
Heather de la Croix May 2018
Why use technology in therapy?
The video below shows the difference that technology can make to someone with aphasia. Dr Sam Cooper and her client demonstrate ‘Before and After’ technology use.