In the world of telepractice, a platform refers to the videoconferencing space that allows a professional to host a session. As a school-based speech-language pathologist, I consider my “platform” to be synonymous with my kidney-bean table—the shared physical space where my students and I connect and learn together.
Like a table, the telepractice platform I use helps me present the materials I need for services and interact with my student—over the internet.
However, a platform in telepractice can be as diverse as the office spaces we inhabit in a school building, clinic or private practice. Most platforms offer basic common features, but they differ widely in the extra videoconferencing tools they include, thus changing the way an SLP might provide services to clients.
Listed below are features you might want to look for in a telepractice platform. Some tools can be used by both client and clinician, and some tools are limited to the clinician.
- A feature for viewing worksheets, game boards, flash cards, slides, lessons or photos during sessions. Usually these images need to be PDFs or jpegs.
- Displays of both client and clinician in large or small icons on the screen, with clear video and audio for communication. Some platforms offer a zoom feature.
- The ability to screen-share documents. Screen-sharing is useful when using interactive games or internet-based treatment materials.
- A digital “whiteboard” space, on which an SLP can annotate, draw or type information in real time.
- Extra features, such as small photos (similar to emoticons), animated reinforcements (think gifs), and game pieces (spinners, dice, timers).
- A secure space for you to document your treatment during or after a session, rather than with paper and pencil.
- Mirroring (also called screen casting) from tablets and smartphones, so you can incorporate your favorite apps in sessions.
Each additional videoconferencing tool your platform offers creates an opportunity to provide “active” communicative experiences with clients. The more tools a platform features, the more varied your treatment sessions can look. Just like with in-person sessions, different features generate different types of motivation for clients.
Of course, we should only use HIPAA-compliant platforms for the security and privacy of clients. ASHA provides useful material regarding this on its Telepractice Overview page.
Whatever tools your platform offers, your extra efforts to use them to connect with your client go a long way to creating successful sessions.