The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) endorsed telepractice as a viable solution for delivering services in 2005. Here’s the official position statement:
ASHA’s position on telepractice is that “telepractice is an appropriate model of service delivery for the professions of speech-language pathology [and audiology]. Telepractice may be used to overcome barriers of access to services caused by distance, unavailability of specialists and/or subspecialists, and impaired mobility.”
Telepractice is not a new concept. In fact, there have been 20 years of research to support videoconferencing and web technology as a viable alternative to face-to-face treatment. To date, more than 30,000 sessions have been successfully conducted in school settings. Just in the last few years, the widespread use of telepractice has exploded in the SLP field, and it’s gaining traction in other fields as well.
Telepractice in Other Fields
Triage nursing: Nursing is one area where telepractice has grown considerably, especially inCanada, where the population is often widely separated. Also dubbed “triage nursing,” nurses can use telecommunication equipment to diagnose minor complaints, identify major issues, and dispense advice.
Autism: Researchers are exploring the efficacy of telepractice to deliver services early in a child’s developmental years. A growing body of research indicates that early intervention by trained professionals is the best course of action for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders Parents have proven effective as agents of intervention, but need ongoing support of professional supervision. Given the difficulty of spending sufficient one-on-one time with individual patients at home, telepractice offers a opportunity to give more time to more patients.
Dysphagia: Based on the proven success of SLP telepractice, theUniversity ofKansas hospital seized an opportunity to provide dysphagia services in rural areas. The three year project, funded by federal funds from the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, conducted remote, interactive swallow studies on rural patients. The results were resoundingly successful in improving services to underserved communities with cost-effective efficiency.
Education: One of the most widely recognized uses for telepractice is in education. Nearly every college offers online courses, and some are wholly online. In addition, there are pilot high school programs in several states. The benefits are numerous for both school and student. The school can serve a greater number of students – and collect a greater number of fees – and the student can do the work on his/her own schedule, without the need to juggle work and other responsibilities.
As the practice of remote services spreads, so does the controversy. The need for standardized care and licensing is clear. There is an ongoing concern about abuse, fraud and unreasonable demands on patients made by insurance companies to save money. What’s your take? Will other industries and medical practices adopt telepractice? What’s the future for telepractice?