The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many allied health services to switch to remote therapy. Speech Pathology is one of these services that has increased the use of telehealth to provide speech therapy to a range of clients, from children to adults. This article aims to discuss the effectiveness of telehealth for speech pathology, and how we can expand the use of telehealth to ensure access for those in rural areas of Australia.
Telehealth for speech therapy has been found to be effective, and its use has sky-rocketed during COVID-19. How can we translate this increased use to telehealth for rural communities and for those who are unable to attend sessions in person?
Access to Services
Speech and language skills in school aged children are predictors of education outcomes, social relationships, and employment later in life. In adults, language difficulties have similar negative impacts on social participation and engagement. Children who are more vulnerable to developing speech and language difficulties predominantly live in rural area. Yet the access to speech pathology services in these areas is limited. It has been found that the number of speech pathologists servicing urban areas is up to 4 times more than those servicing rural areas. It is vital that those who are most vulnerable and at risk are able to access the necessary services.
Telehealth during COVID-19 and beyond
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many speech pathology services have had to move online. The research around telehealth for speech pathology has found it to be effective. A systematic review found that school-aged children receiving therapy through telehealth and those receiving therapy in person made similar and significant improvements to their speech and language goals. A systematic review analysing telehealth in adults found similar positive outcomes of the effectiveness of telehealth for speech pathology. Telehealth is feasible, effective, and has been found to have high participation satisfaction.
Although internet connections and equipment need to be considered, telehealth can be low-cost and time efficient once the necessary measures are put in place. For rural areas in which there is no speech pathologist nearby, telehealth can have a large positive impact on communication in both children and adults who are otherwise at high risk of negative outcomes
There is a promising future for using telehealth to deliver Speech Pathology services to rural areas. At Optimum Health Solutions we can provide services via telehealth, to ensure access for those living in rural areas and for those who are unable to attend sessions in person. We aim to enable our clients to live life to the fullest, whether it is face-to-face or through a screen.
Mashima, P. and Doarn, C., 2008. Overview of Telehealth Activities in Speech-Language Pathology. Telemedicine and e-Health, 14(10), pp.1101-1117.
Wales, D., Skinner, L. and Hayman, M., 2017. The Efficacy of Telehealth-Delivered Speech and Language Intervention for Primary School-Age Children: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Telerehabilitation, 9(1), pp.55-70.
Disclaimer: Statements of fact and opinion in the article above, Speech Therapy During COVID-19 and Beyond, are those of the respective authors, researchers and case studies provided and not of the publishers of Speech Therapy During COVID-19 and Beyond. The readers should make his or her own evaluation of the accuracy and appropriateness of findings before applying to themselves. Optimum Health Solutions cannot accept any legal responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions that may be made.