For years, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) working with people with aphasia have entertained the idea of how effective remove speech therapy could be for some patients, but the idea has been largely dismissed as a non-viable therapy option. Today, however, technology has improved, practices have evolved, and telemedicine is gaining momentum as a natural "next step" in aphasia therapy.
Telemedicine has been a topic of interest for many years. Any idea that can make much-needed therapy more accessible to people with aphasia is exciting and certainly worth investigating. This, in part, was the reason for the study I conducted, along with two academic speech pathologists from University of Massachusetts-Amherst, on how realistic telemedicine is for people with aphasia.
Our report, Telepractice in the Assessment and Treatment of Individuals with Aphasia, was recently published in the International Journal of Telerehabilitation. The study analyzed various articles from 1983 through 2012 and assessed what findings are still relevant today and identified areas that need further exploration. For the purposes of this blog, however, I will stick to the highlights.
Key Findings for Telemedicine and Aphasia Therapy
1. There is growing interest in telemedicine: Although the articles reviewed span nearly 30 years, 70 percent were written between 2007 and 2012. This reflects not only an increased interest on the part of clinicians, service delivery organizations, and reimbursers in telemedicine, but also the significant improvements in capabilities and quality of distance communication technologies in recent years.
2. Telemedicine is applicable for many patients and activities: The clinical services provided covered a wide spectrum (e.g., disease appraisal, assessments, therapeutic interventions, and clinical consultations) and included many diagnostic categories, such as global aphasia, Broca's aphasia, and apraxia of speech.
3. Widespread Internet access is a driving force: Internet connectivity has paved the way for videoconferencing applications and services, such as Skype and GoTo Meeting, from the home. These technologies deliver face-to-face interaction, acceptable audio quality, and come at a relatively low cost.
There are still obstacles to overcome before telemedicine is widely adopted - primarily interface design for people with aphasia, reimbursement, technology adoption. But as attitudes, policies, infrastructures, and clinical practice evolve, the benefits of telemedicine are sure to bring exciting and new ways for people with aphasia to reconnect with family, friends, and even their SLPs.
Lingraphica is using telemedicine to treat patients with aphasia! Learn more about our offerings.
Hall N, Boisvert M, & Steele R. 2013. Telepractice in the Assessment and Treatment of Individuals with Aphasia: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Telehrehabilitation, 5(1,Spring): 27-38.