Social Distancing Technology Survival Guide

Social Distancing Technology Survival Guide

March 20, 2020 11:28 am

The role of the caregiver is challenged when we cannot be there for our clients. Our clients count on us and when we can’t be there for them, it hurts. We understand the hurt. 

We understand the struggle of adjusting to a world where you can’t meet with your clients in person. At DCI we are more than your technology partner, we come from a caregiving background and can relate to what you and your clients are going through. We are here to help.

While we can not be there in person, there are several ways we can stay engaged with our clients. This article will look at free tools that you can use to text or video chat with your clients so you can remain close despite the social distancing.

Messaging Platforms

Google Hangouts

Did you know that Google has a built-in messaging system? Did you know that you can use that messaging system for free to communicate with other users that have Gmail accounts?

Remember signing up for DCI requires a valid email account, so many of your clients may have signed up with a Gmail account. If this is the case, you can communicate directly with your client through Google Hangouts. 

Start a Hangout on Gmail

Here are instructions on how to start a hangout from Google Support

  1. On your computer, go to hangouts.google.com or open Hangouts in Gmail. If you have the Hangouts Chrome extension, Hangouts will open in a new window.
  2. At the top, click New conversation .
  3. Enter and select a name or email address.
  4. Type your message. 
    1. You can also add emojis and photos.
  5. On your keyboard, press Enter.

Google Hangout for Mobile Phones

Google Hangouts is a great free communication app that works for both Android and iPhone users. The only requirement is a valid Gmail address.

Many mobile phones come preloaded with Google Apps. Included in these apps is Google Hangouts. If you have this application, you can use Google Hangouts as a way to “Facetime” or chat using your smartphone. The instructions are the same as they are for PC only here you would have to launch the app, log in with your Gmail credentials and you will be able to start chatting with your Gmail connections.

If you don’t have the app on your android device it is available at the Google Play Store or here on the App Store for iPhone subscribers.

Google G Suite 

Do you need to share a document, spreadsheet or presentation? If so, Google G Suite provides all you need to collaborate in one place. Whether it is sharing information with a client or working on a project remotely with a team member, sharing through Google Drive allows this to happen easily and securely. Like Google Hangouts, Google G Suite requires a Google email address. You can create your free Google email address and account by clicking here.

Skype

Skype is another free video and text communication platform. Similar to Google Hangouts, Skype is integrated into Hotmail. Skype is a Microsoft product, so it also works on things like Xbox. 

So, let’s say that you work with a client who is an Xbox user, but doesn’t have a cell phone. Skype would be the perfect way to keep in touch. 

Skype does require a valid email address, but it does not have to be specific to Gmail or Hotmail. A Skype account can be created from any email provider. 

Non-Compliant Messaging Services

Other free messaging services include Facebook Messenger, Facebook Portal, and WhatsApp should be avoided. These apps are considered public-facing and are not covered by the telehealth provision enacted for messaging apps during the COVID-19 emergency response issued by HHS.  

Meeting and Communication Platforms for your Clients and Team

GoToMeeting

While video messaging keeps you feeling connected, the intention of those platforms is social interaction. GoToMeeting is a tool that you have access to which allows you to share documents, pass control to the attendee or allow the attendee to share their screen. This is a powerful tool for any computer-based training you can conduct with your clients while working remotely. It is also a great tool to screen share to help complete any forms that may need to be completed.

Zoom

If you don’t have access to a GoToMeeting account, then Zoom is another free online meeting platform that is great for training. Signing up for a free account will allow a one-on-one meeting for unlimited time and more than three people for up to forty minutes for free. Like GoToMeeting, Zoom has the same features of being able to screen share and give control of the mouse to the attendee. Both platforms are great for online training or completing forms and other documents. 

Slack

Slack is an internal tool that allows you to manage work and collaborate with your team. With Slack, you can share documents, get approvals and notifications. You can exchange files and connect your work tools to Slack to have everything in one central location. You can also create a dedicated channel which is an ideal centralized place to communicate progress on a project.

GoToWebinar

GoToWebinar is a meeting platform that allows more control to the presenter.  It is a perfect platform to disseminate information to a large group, which allows the presenter to control feedback from the audience. It allows for custom surveys and polls which allows the presenter to get a quick pulse from the audience.

Traditional Communication Strategies

When we see our clients each day, we are in constant contact with open lines of communication With social distancing, that constant contact is all of a sudden broken. That is tough on both of you. Even though we live in an age of technology, sometimes the simplest communication strategies are the best. 

For example, a simple check-in phone call during your scheduled appointment time. This lets your client know that you are thinking about them and allows you to keep that communication channel open.

Email is another great way to check-in with someone. While not as personal as a phone call, emails can be a quick way to check-in with a client and provide a reminder of goals you hope to accomplish.

The key to overcoming the challenges of social distancing is finding a communication strategy that allows you to feel connected, even when you can’t be there. This article provided messaging, meeting and other communication strategies that allow you to be productive while working remotely.

HIPAA and Messaging Platforms

We also understand the concerns you may have about patient privacy and HIPAA violations. We share your concerns.

On March 17, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced, effective immediately, that it will exercise its enforcement discretion and will waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients through everyday communications technologies during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.

This means that communication using messaging platforms as described in this article can be used in good faith to communicate with your clients during this time of crisis. Covered apps outlined in the OCR release include Google Hangouts, Skype for Business and Zoom for Healthcare.

To learn more, click on the  full announcement below: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html

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