“It’s not one size fits all”; the use of videoconferencing for delivering therapy in a Specialist Paediatric Chronic Fatigue Service by Andrew Haig-Ferguson, Maria Loades, Charlotte Whittle, Rebecca Read, Nina Higson-Sweeney, Lucy Beasant, Jennifer Starbuck, Esther Crawley in Internet Interventions Volume 15, March 2019, Pages 43-51 [Available online 23 Dec 2018]
There are few specialist paediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) services in the UK. Therefore, the distance some families have to travel to reach these services can be a barrier to accessing evidence-based treatment. Videoconferencing technology such as Skype provides a means of delivering sessions remotely. This study aimed to explore the views of children and young people, their parents, and healthcare professionals of treatment delivered by videoconferencing in a specialist paediatric CFS/ME team.
To explore the experiences of the participants, a qualitative design was selected. Twelve young people (age 9–18), and 6 parents were interviewed about their experience of treatment sessions delivered via videoconferencing within a specialist CFS/ME service. A focus group explored the views of healthcare professionals (N = 9) from the service. Thematic analysis was used.
Three themes were identified from the data: “Challenges and concerns”, “Benefits” and “Treatment provision”. Challenges and concerns that participants identified were; difficulties experienced with technology; a sense of a part of communication being lost with virtual connections; privacy issues with communicating online and feeling anxious on a screen. Participants felt that benefits of videoconferencing were; improving access to the chronic fatigue service; convenience and flexibility of treatment provision; a sense of being more open online and being in the comfort of their own home. In terms of treatment provision participants talked about videoconferencing as a part of a hierarchy of communication; the function of videoconferencing within the context of the chronic fatigue service; additional preparation needed to utilise videoconferencing and an assumption that videoconferencing is “part of young people’s lives”.
Although the experience of sessions provided by videoconferencing was different to sessions attended in person, participants tended to be positive about videoconferencing as an alternative means of accessing treatment, despite some barriers. Videoconferencing could be an additional option within an individualised care plan, but should not be an alternative to face to face support.