Using Video for remote teaching, training, and telehealth consultations

ISN Psychology is using Cisco Webex to provide online training and examination for its students due to COVID-19 and the associated lockdown restrictions which have prevented face-to-face education delivery.

Importantly, Cisco Webex enables ISN students, specifically 1st and 2nd year Clinical Masters students (registered as provisional psychologists), to provide remote telehealth counselling as part of the placement component of their degree course.

About ISN Psychology

ISN is an acronym for the Institute for Social Neuroscience

ISN Psychology is an accredited private higher education provider located in Ivanhoe, Victoria. It offers a range of discipline-specific (psychology) qualifications from undergraduate to Master’s degrees. ISN is also engaged in the provision of psychological services through its clinics (ISN Clinic) located in Ivanhoe and Bundoora. Additionally, through its dedicated research and development arm, ISN Innovations, it undertakes research in psychology, human behaviour and social neuroscience. It aims not only to be a thought leader in its field but also to facilitate the practical adoption of insights and learnings for the benefit of the broader community.

The Challenges

As part of their course, students in the Master of Psychology (Clinical) program develop practical skills in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems. The first challenge was to transition students to a digital platform which could facilitate this training along with online examinations. This was necessary due to COVID-19 and the associated lockdown restrictions that have been in force in the State of Victoria during most of 2020. 

The student’s skills are applied in practical placements where they must complete a minimum number of counselling sessions with real clients under the supervision of a senior psychologist.  These sessions are typically conducted face to face.  However, face to face counselling was no longer possible under lockdown conditions. 

The second and more significant challenge was to provide a flexible digital platform which could provide high-quality video conferencing for counselling via telehealth and ensure privacy as required in these clinical settings. 

The Solution

ISN Psychology rolled out Cisco Webex Meetings which addressed both challenges efficiently and professionally. The new technology platform provided an environment that facilitated the delivery of high-quality lecturing, tutorials, and associated content. It also enabled both students and clients to be situated in different locations with the sessions conducted in a ‘virtual face-to-face’ setting.  The solution was fully scoped and implemented by Kytec, a Cisco Gold Partner.

To keep things simple, the counselling session or ‘meeting’ is initiated by a student logging directly in the Webex app.  Students can manage invitations, scheduling, and meetings while handling their clients with relative ease.  Familiarity with this new technology was accelerated by the extensive and necessary use of technology due to COVID-19.  All student access to Cisco Webex requires multi factor authentication to assure privacy and security. 

Concurrently, ISN implemented Webex Calling, a cloud-based telephony platform which includes all the traditional PBX features such as call forwarding and auto attendant but without the requirement for onsite hardware and the associated capex.  It is fully scalable with a uniform ‘look and feel’ across all devices and all locations and calls are video enabled on camera equipped client endpoints including PCs and mobile phones.

Going a step further

The ability for ISN Psychology to run telehealth counselling sessions means they are now able to conduct and promote free remote counselling for the broader community across Victoria and the rest of Australia, delivered by Master of Psychology students.  

Telehealth using Cisco Webex has enabled students to continue their practical placements despite the challenges and limitations associated with COVID-19.  

“As telehealth has become a prominent means of health service delivery during COVID-19, students have been able to develop competencies in ethical and professional telehealth psychology services, and become proficient in managing cutting-edge technology”, Professor Tony Paolini, CEO & President, ISN Psychology.

In addition to being a benefit for their students, ISN Psychology is now able to provide a valuable community service.  

A further extension of this model is anticipated to commence in 2021, where services will be provided to rural and remote communities using Webex services delivered to ‘hubs’ where the client can engage ‘virtually’ with the student. At each hub, there will be a support person on hand in case they are required by either the client or student. 

ISN also rolled out Cisco Webex Boards in their brand-new Bundoora clinic to facilitate wireless presentations, videoconferencing, counselling sessions, and sharing of content. Webex Room Kit Minis are used for videoconferencing and student counselling in the ISN main site at Ivanhoe.  

The Results

ISN Psychology now has an IT infrastructure that fully supports, and is integral to, its online counselling services.  This has been significantly beneficial through the COVID-19 lockdown period and is expected to continue as the advantages of telehealth services, especially for rural and remote populations, coupled with the flexibility these services offer, are being increasingly recognised across the country. 

“Because the solution is all Cisco, it just works.  It’s so simple having Webex Meetings and Webex Teams in the same application”, Professor Tony Paolini, CEO & President, ISN Psychology.

“Everything is scalable: Calling, Teams, and Meetings.  It is a flexible platform that supports our growing delivery of counselling, psychology, education and mental health services”, Professor Tony Paolini, CEO & President, ISN Psychology.