Quality framework for telephone counselling and internet-based support services

Quality area 6: Systems

Page last updated: September 2008

    Quality statement

    The systems (technology platforms) will be accessible, reliable, responsive and secure and use adaptable and compatible technologies.

    Quality statement guidelines

6.1 Organisations will use relevant technology innovatively to maximise effectiveness

6.1.1 By providing services using appropriate technology, organisations will enable synchronous and asynchronous interactions in accordance with their aims and objectives. Planning for telephone technologies should consider:
  1. Adequate technical support services for maintenance of current technologies and installation of new technologies.

  2. Protection against unplanned disruptions and secure back-up systems.

  3. Security of caller confidentiality, minimising the risk of breaches of security' should be integrated into telephone and accompanying technologies.

  4. Where recording of calls is incorporated into telephony, systems should be in place to ensure activation arrangements are reliable and secure and include automated caller notification.

  5. Capacity to provide warm links, with particular regard to managing imminent risk.

  6. Adequate provision to accommodate demand and minimise risk of technology related call loss. Technology for internet and email based counselling services should offer:
  1. Relevant encryption software or technologies to secure information.

  2. Accessibility through provision of voice activated systems for people with disabilities or with typing issues, video cams for face to face, and large print for visual impaired people.

  3. Call recording notification consistent with obligations for informing of such recording. Top of page
6.1.2 Internet services will receive informed consent from clients in regard to the potential risks and benefits of those services, safeguards against those risks and alternatives to those services. (International Society for Mental Health Online). Internet services will provide: A disclaimer identifying the limitation of security of information on the internet or via email. A statement of any limitations to online counselling and provide other alternatives for service users requiring assistance. A service-user declaration that enables identification of minors for whom the service may be inappropriate or for which parent or guardian consent is required. A statement setting out the qualifications of counsellors.

6.1.3 Static websites providing information and linkages will consider the extent to which technology is able to provide for:
  1. Navigation usability, including search capacity and navigation aids.
  2. Site optimisation, including links and back links.
  3. Accessibility, including providing for visually impaired people.
  4. Reliability and efficiency.
  5. Security for content management and relevant disclaimers.
6.2 The effectiveness of the technology will be reviewed at regular intervals.

6.2.1 Technology reviews will form part of organisations' strategic planning processes, which will be clearly documented and communicated throughout the organisation.

6.2.2 In evaluating technology, consideration should be given to:
  1. Operational reliability.
  2. Capacity to meet demand.
  3. Usability and functionality.
  4. Overall performance with respect to accessibility, efficiency and effectiveness.
6.2.3 Annual reviews may be complemented by initiatives associated with the development of new technologies available to enhance service.

6.2.4 Reviews should incorporate input from service users, including staff and caller feedback.

6.3 Web and telephone services will meet Australian and New Zealand standards and comply with all relevant legislation.

6.3.1 Management will ensure that organisations have structures in place, supported by policies and procedures, and can demonstrate compliance with relevant legislation. Relevant legislation and standards include, but are not limited to:
  1. National Privacy Act 1988 and associated Information Privacy Principles.
  2. Internet codes of practice (pursuant to the requirements of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992).
6.3.2 Though not specifically aimed at internet or telephone-based services, due care is also appropriate with respect to meeting national requirements for ensuring accessibility, non-discriminatory and inclusive service.

Relevant reference points include Website Standards Association, International Society for Mental Health Online, American Counselling Association's Ethical Standards for Internet Online Counselling, Code of Conduct for Medical and Health Websites, Health on the Net, American Psychological Association and The Practice of Internet Counselling, National Board for Certified Counsellors Inc.