Does it Work? – Telepractice for Adult Speech Therapy
The short answer is yes. But why?
Telepractice is the practice of therapeutic services via telephone and or internet communication devices. Worldwide, speech and language pathologists have begun to see the benefits of adapting telepractice services to their treatment plans. Through the integration of numerous forms of technology, a speech therapist can appropriately meet the needs of individual patients regardless of where they are located. Widener & Lowman (2020) conducted a literature review on the efficacy of adult-focused speech-language pathologist services and found the results to be promising. In their review, 31 studies were identified with numerous elements that provide evidence that telepractice delivered speech therapy is an effective intervention option for adult-focused speech-language pathologists.
In this post, we focus on three key findings from Widener & Lowman’s (2020) review while addressing a key concern many speech-language pathologists have regarding telepractice delivered speech therapy.
Home Environment Received Speech Therapy Provides Ecological Validity of Care
Remote therapy has benefits for both the therapist and the patient. We covered the positive aspects of remote therapy for the patient in our article “5 Benefits of Remote Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy”.
For the speech-language pathologist, research by Rhodes & Isaki (2018) found that a key benefit of having a patient access speech-language pathology services from home is “the potential for greater ecological validity.” What this means is that by understanding the home environment, a speech-language pathologist has an opportunity to understand potential influences that can impact treatment outcomes.
In a study with two left hemisphere stroke patients, Rhodes & Isaki discovered something interesting. One patient had their family present, but they were not directly involved in speech therapy, and the other patient had their family present and were heavily involved in their speech therapy. There was a positive and immediate response when a patient has an involved family than one who did not. These variations allowed the researchers to observe the impact of environmental factors.
In Rhodes & Isaki’s (2018) study, the factors that influenced treatment were able to be observed within the remote therapy sessions. Family involvement played a vital role during the reception of speech therapy as well as having access to family-based dialect.
Can Telepractice Delivered Speech Therapy Work for Patients with Aphasia?
Two studies by Getz et al. (2016) & Brennan et al. (2012) found that telepractice therapy improved reading ability in patients with aphasia. Because of aphasia therapy’s audiovisual nature, using telepractice delivered speech therapy is effective in aphasia treatment.
Speech-language pathologists have provided telepractice speech therapy by integrating the use of video-conferencing and apps. Speech-language pathologists can virtually meet their patients through video-conferencing while their clients perform exercises on an app or through an online cognitive rehabilitation tool. Both the client and speech-language pathologist can use devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers.
You Mean Tablets Can Be Used for Telepractice Delivered Speech Therapy?
Yes, and quite effectively. One study conducted by Choi et. al (2016) had participants with aphasia use iPads and virtually meet with a speech therapist or researcher. Each iPad had an application and with the direction of the speech-language pathologist, the patient was directed to perform exercises targeting auditory comprehension, reading comprehension, repetition, naming, writing, and verbal fluency. The results of pre and post clinical assessments found that participants with aphasia who received this type of treatment saw a significant improvement in language functioning, after only 4 weeks.
The Big Concern: Does Insurance Cover Telepractice Delivered Speech Therapy?
A major concern for speech therapists is whether insurance companies will cover remote speech therapy services provided. With the development of remote video-conferencing and the ability to virtually see patients, insurance companies have started to change their policies to consider telepractice delivered speech therapy to be a viable treatment option. The fear of declination of service due to in-person speech therapy billing requirements will become a thing of the past for both speech therapists and patients alike in the time to come.
Telepractice delivered speech therapy methods for adult speech-language pathologists are effective in treating patients. Patients can receive treatment from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Telepractice speech therapy tools have shown to be positive in their ability to provide practical, accessible, and more ecologically valid treatments. Telecommunication may soon become a standard in how therapists can help provide services to their adult patients.