Serving the Underserved: How Telespeech Better Serves Rural Populations…

by Tom Kloiber on July 6, 2012

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For rural school districts on the strict budgets made necessary by the foundering economy, meeting the mandated requirements for special needs students can be particularly difficult. Telespeech provides a low-cost option to what could be a very costly problem, and its working well in rural areas. School districts back by federal funding are embracing distance services as a grand example of money well spent.

The problem of reaching rural patients affects everyone in the chain – the students and their families, the SLP charged with delivering therapy, and the school officials trying to fit therapy into a strained budget. Telespeech makes perfect sense to address everything – travel time, cost, coverage, and ongoing therapy when school is out of session.

Creating a Choice

Before telespeech services hit the market, patients and schools were limited by proximity. SLPs can be few and far between in rural areas because there are rarely enough patients to sustain a practice. Instead, they tend to set up practice in population centers. This can make finding a therapist difficult and also limit the choice to whichever therapist is close enough to be practical.

Telespeech changed this dynamic. Since therapists can be anywhere, patients and school administrators are fee to find a therapist who fits their ideal candidate. There are fewer limits on candidates.

Overcoming Barriers to Treatment

Distance is more than a simple inconvenience. For some patients, it means that therapy is not only inconvenient, but impossible. Most SLP patients fall into three categories – children, the elderly, and adults with disabilities as a result of accident or stroke. Which means that driving to an office requires a transportation arrangement, loss of work, and significant expense. Telespeech brings the treatment to the patient, and results in more consistent treatment.

Non-traditional Schools

Telespeech also offers the opportunity to reach students in unusual educational situations, like home schooled kids, children on Native American lands, and kids recovering from an accident or injury at home. Kids who change schools may even be able to keep the same therapist.

Rural Dwellers

According to the census, nearly 21% of the U.S. population, or 59,274,456 people, live in rural areas. In general, 12% to 14% of school-age children have speech/language disorders. That means nearly 2.5 million kids in need, living in areas with a population smaller than 50, 000. Telespeech is the single most efficient way to serve them.

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