Between Two Screens - 8 Essential Video Conferencing Features for Telepractice

November 17, 2014
Jenny Peddicord, CCC-SLP
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For those of you eagerly anticipating this month’s installment of Between Two Screens, the wait is over. What pearls will I share? What wisdom will I impart? Everyone’s been asking. And now I'm answering: This month, I want to talk about the features native to various video conferencing platforms that I find essential for telepractice. Think of this information not as pearls, but nuggets of gold. Well . . . ok. Maybe semi-helpful tidbits. But still, I hope you find it useful.

8 Essential Video Conferencing FeaturesAnd actually, it is a goldmine over here. There are a multitude of elements to consider when assessing which video streaming platform is right for you. What are the pieces you’ll need clincailly? Which features will be simple for you and your clients to use? We have a team of seasoned practitioners who have been helping children and adults remotely for years, and who are always willing to share their advice. They are videoconferencing pros, and have some definite opinions about this topic. So I’m not only giving you my top features, but am including those of our other phenomenal clinicians. For free! Your lucky day.

Before we dive into the videoconferencing features that I think are essential for effective speech therapy telepractice, a quick side note on my own practices -- I happen to use 4 or 5 different platforms, depending on my needs. I know, right? Seems ridiculous, but it suits me well to have a few different tools at my disposal. Much like an array of paintbrushes for a master painter. It all depends on whom I’m contacting and for which purpose. After all, I am a consumer used to choices. If you’re curious about what I could possibly need 4 plus platforms for, comment below. I’d be happy to go on about this. For now, let's get started with the blessed list --Peddicord's Must Have Videoconferencing Features.

1. Whiteboard

If it doesn’t have this capability, just walk away. I use it in almost every session, with adults and kids. It allows me to draw, type, highlight, etc. A good whiteboard will also allow you to cut and paste. Keep an eye out for that extra feature.

2. Screen Sharing

I know many people love this feature. It’s not my absolute favorite, but I do use it.

3. Shared Control

Yes, it is sort of related to #2. I feel like I should use this feature more, but I don’t. Maybe I don’t want to share control. Um, I feel some repressed anger bubbling up from my psyche. Anyway, others seem to like this feature. Tracy Buckendorf, my comrade over in Kansas, LOVES this feature. She says it’s necessary for playing online games, such as rolling the dice, and even online coloring.  I may be convinced. Sharing is caring after all. 

4. Instant Messaging

I use this feature to chat with adults in the room, allowing me to not interrupt a child I'm working with. I also use it to give cues about words/targets, and to share links with relevant material or practice activities. Really, I use this a lot.

5. Enlargeable Video Screens

Not sure this actually a feature, but important none the less. I need to see faces and mouths. I must be able to enlarge some of those tiny pictures. Generally this isn’t an issue, but make sure your platform can do this and still maintain some clarity.

6. Advanced Scheduling (or Not)

Pretty self-explanatory. This is a great, even essential, clinical feature. Sometimes, though, you need to have an "insta-meeting" on the fly with co-workers or a client. Many of the platforms that require scheduling actually aren’t that great for these sorts of impromptu gatherings. This is one of the reasons that I use other platforms for quick chats with co-workers, clients, and family.

7. Recording

You should be able to record, store and play back as needed. Great for clinicians and clients alike.

8. Ease of Use

Video conferencing should not hinder your client’s access to quality therapy. If you spend time each session getting things set up, then it isn’t a good fit. Your client should be able to open the link, adjust volume and see clearly without doing much of anything. Your end can be as complicated as you can handle effectively.

Now is the part where you would like for me to name the uber-top-platform that meets all of these requirements. Sorry folks. As of this writing, that platform just doesn't exist. I currently use Microsoft’s Lync for my Hello There work, GotoMeeting for many of my Hello Online clients, Google Hangout for when I need to connect to coworkers, Skype with my parents and friends abroad, and sometimes I use Zoom for its ease of use. I am not advocating for any particular platform and I don’t make money from them. I know others have success with many other wonderful platforms, and if you're interested in delving deeper into this topic, join ASHA's Special Interest Group 18. Many of the discussions there revolve around platforms and compliance and it's definitely worth your time if telepractice is your thing.

That's all from me for now. I’m hoping one or two of you will comment below (or on Twitter or Facebook) and that we can continue this discussion, and start to rev up for my next installment: the mysterious world of HIPAA compliance.

Between 2 Screens

This post is part of our ongoing series, Between Two Screens, in which we share our take on the ever-changing and always-exciting world of speech language pathology and telepractice. Check out our other posts and let us know if there's a topic you'd like us to cover!