After a two-year development period, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario’s recent launch of our new online platform couldn’t be better timed for clients. Of the many challenges that have arrived with the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining optimal health in increased isolation is one of the most pressing. Now, people living with SCI and their families can access SCIO staff, mentors, health care resources and support services from their own home through VIP4SCI – the Virtual Integrated Platform for Spinal Cord Injury.
Project Manager and Provincial Intake Co-ordinator Susan Willis describes the new online resource as highly secure and completely customized for the SCI community.
“VIP puts the client at the centre of their own care. No matter where someone lives, it provides self-directed tools and equal access to SCIO people, programs and services. Because it’s online, VIP eliminates the need for travel while offering face-to-face communication through videoconferencing. That allows more of our clients to live independently while receiving the care, support and personal contact they need.”
In addition to videoconferencing with medical experts, service providers and peer mentors, clients and family members can also access valuable planning and communication tools: messaging, calendar scheduling, goal setting, a journal, educational videos, and a community board forum.
“My vision is to see all of our clients sign on,” says Chris.
“This is a truly unique and progressive resource available at an important time.”
“VIP doesn’t replace anything that SCIO offers,” says Chris Bourne, Regional Services Co-ordinator for Ottawa. “It expands our reach by adding new options and providing greater access. For one, it addresses isolation issues – and not just those imposed by our current pandemic – by eliminating the need for travel and bringing people together through technology. In addition, many client needs, like finding equipment, returning to work or attending a health care consultation, can be fulfilled virtually. It’s a win-win.”
Before becoming available this past April, VIP was thoroughly researched and tested, with 50 members of the SCIO community in different regions of Ontario providing user feedback to further refine the platform. At the end of the testing period, 100% of clients involved in the pilot project said they wanted to continue using it.
Now, it’s just a matter of community-wide adoption.
“My vision is to see all of our clients sign on,” says Chris. “This is a truly unique and progressive resource available at an important time.”
Susan agrees that the new platform is both innovative and highly responsive to client needs. In addition to improving accessibility and bringing together all that SCIO offers in one place, she is perhaps most excited about the collaborative and community-building aspects of VIP.
“Anything that joins us closer together is a good goal in itself,” she says. “Increasing access, supporting independence and filling gaps in service are important. So is feeling connected to others and working together to improve quality of life. For example, we can now offer one-to-one peer support across the entire province by eliminating the barrier of distance. We all benefit from belonging to a strong community. VIP makes that more possible for all Ontarians living with an SCI.”’