USC Telehealth Program Unites Families, Social Workers

(Image: USC Telehealth)

(Image: USC Telehealth)

Parents as Teachers and the University of Southern California School of Social Work have partnered up to create a pilot program to give digital "home visits" using new USC Telehealth technology.

Those involved in the new program will receive service from Parents as Teachers via live, individualized video conferences. They will also be able to participate in child health and development screenings, community support referrals, and group chats including other parents.

USC School of Social Work graduate fellows will be receiving training in the Parents as Teachers service model and will serve 65 families.

Scott Hippert, President and CEO of Parents as Teachers, said:

The Parents as Teachers @ USC Telehealth program is fundamentally expanding the ways parent education and family support services are provided, from in-home visiting to a live online platform. We intend to demonstrate that the model can be delivered effectively and with fidelity in a virtual environment.

Parents who participate in the pilot program, who will be recruited from the LA Best Babies Network, will be provided with tablets and wireless internet for the duration of the study.

Parents as Teachers hopes to use the technology to improve their ability to reach underserved communities, according to USC News.

USC Telehealth offers Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant video conferencing using an easily accessible online program designed for those of all computer skill levels. According to its creators, this new technology will change the lives of the impoverished, those lacking the transportation necessary to make it to frequent appointments, or those who move too often for traditional therapy to be effective.

So far, the service has reached more than 350 patients for about 3,000 total sessions, reports Maya Meinert of USC Social Work Web. 75% of surveyed users have said that they like USC Telehealth as much as or better than traditional face-to-face counseling.

The technology will also be available to students seeking their Master's in Social Work online, allowing them to complete their supervised practicum training virtually.

Dorian Traube, USC associate professor and lead investigator, said:

This project is a prime example of how preventative health services can be taken into a home setting through telehealth technology. Our hope is that by using the latest in secure, user-friendly technology, more families will have access to critical early intervention services. At the same time, we are opening the doors to communicate with a new generation of families who are surrounded and immersed in technology on a regular basis.

The pilot was funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Coalition for Research on Engagement and Well-Being. It was also recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative as a Commitment to Action in 2015.

Researchers will begin gathering qualitative information this summer, with results expected to be released next summer.

Parents as Teachers helps educate organizations and professionals on the best practices in working with parents and pre-Kindergarten children, according to the organization's website. They also teach about school readiness, early intervention, parental involvement, and cultural competence.

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