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1. Is Digital Peer Support effective?

Digital Peer Support interventions appear to be feasible and acceptable, with strong potential for clinical effectiveness. Read the full article here.

2. With the new changes around social distancing, how should we address the lack of access to private rooms (i.e. working from home but having others home as well)?

Find a space in your home where you can take the call privately. This can be an office, kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc. Wear headphones to prevent others from overhearing confidential information. Be sure to have an appropriate set up with everything that you may need (chargers, notepads, pens, etc.).

3. Could the use of Facebook as a platform open up to potential struggles between separating work and personal life?

As with any form of digital peer support, the use of Facebook could open up potential boundary struggles. It is important to keep your personal Facebook separate from your business Facebook. As with any form of digital peer support, set boundaries and stick to them. If you answer messages between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., stick to those hours. It may be helpful to set an away message, directing service users to other resources in the off hours and in the event of an emergency.

4. Phone calls can feel overwhelming when I am more anxious or depressed. Text messaging is not in line with HIPAA is there a way to work around this without having to teach a whole new app?

Under the Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications during the COVID 19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency, providers can use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with service users without risk of noncompliance with HIPAA rules as long as they are used in good faith. That means, any means of communication that are between yourself and another person are currently acceptable, as long as you do your part in keeping these communications private. This includes: Apple FaceTime, text messaging, Facebook Messenger and video chat, Google Hangouts video, Skype, and more. Products such as Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok and other similar video communications that are public facing are not acceptable for use. Check with your agency as agency rules could differ.

5. At my organization, we often interact with folks who are chronically experiencing homelessness and have difficulty keeping a phone on them without it getting stolen. If they do have a phone, they don’t have a place to charge it. Do you see installing a desktop app on library computers as a way to reach folks who cannot keep technology of their own?

When non-essential businesses are not closed, yes. However, it is important to remember that libraries are not private settings so individuals may not feel comfortable taking a video call in that setting for their session. While there is the chance of losing a phone or having it stolen, it’s always good to give the individual the opportunity to have a phone and that form of connection. Call 2-1-1 for more details on how to obtain a phone for yourself or someone in need.

6. Do we need to obtain a Zoom “Medical” account to deliver digital peer support? Are our personal Zoom (free) accounts comply with HIPAA?

Zoom for Healthcare accounts are HIPAA compliant under a signed Business Associate Agreement. However, personal accounts are not. Under the Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications during the COVID 19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency, providers are permitted to use personal (free) Zoom accounts under the good faith provision.

7. Is GoToMeeting HIPAA compliant?

GoToMeeting is HIPAA Compliant and adheres to regulatory compliance for healthcare providers and healthcare organizations. Make sure you sign a BAA with GoToMeeting before using it to store or transmit any protected health information (PHI).

8. How much do Zoom “medical” accounts cost?

Approximately $200.00 per month for an organization.

9. What are some resources to help deaf and/or blind service users?

One way to help deaf service users is to include captions on video conference meetings. Useful apps for people who are deaf or have hearing loss include:
Google live transcribe
Sound Alert

10. How can homeless service users access mobile phones?

Call 2-1-1 and ask for access to a free phone and line. Also, programs such as Safelink provide free phones and data plans.

11. What is a good back up plan in the event of technological difficulties at the time of a scheduled outreach?

In the event that your digital peer support session fails on any given platform, touch base with service users with a phone call, text, etc. to come up with a plan for future communication based on what works best for the two of you.

12. Do any companies supply free Internet routers?

It is not specifically stated. Companies such as Comcast are providing free internet access due to COVID-19, call to inquire further about what that entails. Each company may have slightly different terms. Additionally, Comcast has opened their WiFi hotspots for anyone to access throughout communities. These hotspots do not require an internet router and can be accessed directly through a mobile device.

13. How do we introduce digital peer support to service users who may not have experience with a smartphone, computer or iPad/tablet (i.e., older adults, people experiencing homelessness population? Are there any telephonic, digital or virtual services that can be provided for training for those who are technically deficient?

We learn together and through practice. Start off by walking them through the basics of the device. Always approach the subject of technology with a positivity and patience. Organizations and local community centers offer training on introductory technology use. SeniorNet is a non-profit that provides computer and Internet education for older adults. Visit for video tutorials.

14. How do you navigate organizations’ firewalls when utilizing technology platforms?

Talk with your supervisor regarding your needs to provide digital peer support. Together, come up with a plan and discuss these needs with the organization’s IT department.