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Cloud Video Proves Vital for Neuro Rehab Clinic

Imagine if a move to contactless services during the pandemic meant people suffering from brain injuries wouldn’t be able to receive critical rehabilitation services. Back-burnering treatment for such patients could certainly curb, if not halt, forward progress, but potential exposure to COVID-19 could severely affect some of these patients due to underlying conditions elevating risk, plus put the staff in harm’s way, too.
 
This is just the challenge that brain injury rehabilitation clinic Centre for Neuro Skills faced as California, where it operates, went into lockdown last year. Led by Joe Castillo, regional director of operations at the organization, the IT team had no time to panic, as pointed out in the nomination that earned this team an Enterprise Connect 2021 IT Heroes Award. As announced earlier this month, Castillo, as team leader, is one of five award winners, and this is the first of a series of profiles we’ll be sharing about our recipients ahead of our roundtable with them on Tuesday, March 9, as part of the Enterprise Connect virtual event, “Communications & Collaboration: 2024” (register for free, here).
 
In his role, Castillo oversees the operations of CNS clinics in California and, as such, he has a team of 10 IT professionals, among staff in a variety of other functions, reporting to him. In an interview with No Jitter, Castillo described his primary responsibilities as “clearing roadblocks” and “ensuring people have the tools they need to complete their jobs.” This means staying on top of technology trends and innovating where appropriate, he added.
 
This latter mandate of Castillo’s ended up serving CNS quite well when COVID-19 hit, and that’s because he had had the foresight a few years ago to migrate from a premises-based phone system to a cloud communications platform. And with that cloud communications platform in place, CNS could quickly address COVID-19 pain points, almost on the fly, to support a new requirement for teletherapy and telehealth.
 
The initial move to cloud dates to 2017, and Castillo said that at the time he was mostly looking at a transition from premises to cloud as a cost-savings maneuver around voice. The company had a mix of POTS lines and MPLS connections, to carry internal calls, and they were weighing down the budget, he said. “We knew we were paying out the nose, and that there had to be a different solution.”
 
After a yearlong evaluation, which included consideration of premises-based systems, CNS decided on cloud and selected RingCentral as its provider. By that time, cost wasn’t the only factor. Scalability was another, to meet the organization’s growth trajectory. And, because RingCentral could deliver a holistic solution, CNS could then bring together its previously piecemeal, clunky apps for IM, videoconferencing, and group collaboration into the same platform that supported voice calling, Castillo said. A plus is that RingCentral supported Poly phones, which jibed with the videoconferencing systems CNS had in place corporatewide, he added. “Consistency and the ability to integrate together is key, … and RingCentral seems to integrate into everything.”
 
When it came to group collaboration and meetings, however, only a small number of power users among the organization’s 500 or so “regular” users had been taking advantage of the cloud platform, via RingCentral Glip, prior to the pandemic. These were folks like admin staff for meetings or therapists who might put together an occupational or physical therapy group here or there on a certain therapy, Castillo said. In addition to these users, Castillo and his team support another 200 or so “basic” users, people in the treatment environment who didn’t need much beyond phone service, he added.
 
But then COVID hit, and CNS had to figure out what to do with its treatment setting. As a neurorehabilitation clinic, CNS serves inpatient, outpatient, and day treatment patients. It has residential complexes for inpatient and assisted living care and provides supportive living for long-term patients. As it weighed questions around continued treatment, the team realized that it should be able to run teletherapy sessions through its cloud communications platform, Castillo said. This would mean turning basic users into regular users, easily enough accomplished by having them upload the RingCentral client to user tablets and desktops in the residential complexes and at home for day patients.
 
His team then engaged the power users to sit down with and guide others on how to use the video function, and then put a teletherapy schedule in place. “Within a week, we were 100% online,” said Castillo, noting how proud he is of his team for being able to do this. “I know other companies that were stumbling for months because they didn’t have a solution and they had to go out and vet providers for their telehealth,” he added.
 
Collaboration, too, went out the roof, he added. “Now my occupational therapist in Bakersfield wanted to see what my occupational therapist in Dallas was doing to see if they could do something different to make sure they’re reaching the people that they need to treat. And the same goes for the physical therapists — we saw all this collaboration and all these new groups developing.”
 
Onboarding patients was a bit more challenging, but not overly so, Castillo added. CNS learned that it needed to first make sure the therapists knew what they were doing on the front side and then also on the backside, so they could help resolve patient issues. “Once they had that understanding, it was like a freight train.”
 
CNS has its fingers crossed that it will be able to carry on with telehealth services once the pandemic restrictions around in-person meetings lift because the organization “would love to continue using this tool” with its various patient populations, Castillo said. In addition, continuing with teletherapy could enable CNS to expand its footprint beyond its two current states of operation, California and Texas, he added. But he pointed out that decision may well come down to funding. Prior to this COVID-19 situation, he explained, insurance carriers did not cover teletherapy sessions, and it’s unknown at the moment whether post-pandemic they will return to that policy or reduce reimbursement, he said.
 
If CNS has to pull back on teletherapy and telehealth sessions, they’ll surely be missed. As Castillo noted, the number of daily meetings at CNS has gone from about 40 to 50 pre-pandemic to slightly more than 430 as of late January. And the bulk of those are for telehealth, he added. “It’s been awesome.”

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