Spiritual care is vital to patients’ health outcomes, yet medical care routinely neglects to include it, leading to unaddressed spiritual needs and decreased quality of life. Reasons for this include insufficient clinical spiritual care training, failure to include spiritual care providers on care teams, and lack of access in underserved populations.
Although the professional spiritual care community has historically resisted the use of technology in the delivery of care, the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the adoption of telehealth and highlighted urgent needs to deliver remote yet meaningful and effective spiritual care. In particular, social media platforms offer vast untapped potential to expand models of delivery for online spiritual care, yet no prior research has ever explored this opportunity. Therefore, this grant aims to generate design guidelines and recommendations for both implementing and participating in “Online Spiritual Care Communities” (OSCCs) as adjuvant services to medical treatment.
We propose to conduct formative work with spiritual care providers, implementation teams, and prospective users, using three main methods: (1) user testing sessions that examine Reddit as a prospective site for OSCCs; (2) design workshops; and (3) surveys. This work will not only form strong community partnerships in the emerging research area of computational spiritual support, but it will also generate guidelines and prototypes that support acquisition of larger awards for future implementation and clinical trials.
Ultimately, we envision that OSCCs will contribute to a more patient-centered and whole-human standard of care because they can: (1) amplify the capacity, visibility, and impact of professional spiritual care workers; and (2) improve patient access to care via supportive community, service referrals, and educational resources.