According to a story from Scoop Independent News, speech therapists from the Waikato District in New Zealand have been using telehealth technology to great effect in order to deliver speech therapy. The health board in the region has ten speech therapists that are able to provide speech therapy services to the rural community.
Speech Therapy and Rare Disease
Speech therapy is a vital part of management for a variety of diseases and conditions, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. All of these illnesses cause neurological changes or degeneration that can eventually make it very difficult for patients to speak and swallow.
Closing The Rural-Urban Gap
The service provided in Waikato allows for patients in more remote, rural areas of New Zealand to receive crucial treatment that in the past would have required a visit to a doctor’s office. Historically, rural populations have been at a disadvantage when it comes to getting cutting edge medical care, but advances such as telehealth have been closing the gap between rural and urban patients. Therapists can administer therapy to patients on a daily basis if necessary.
The speech therapists as Waikato work with patients who may only require a brief period of speech therapy as well as patients who, as in many rarer illnesses like ALS, will require long term care as their chronic illness continues to progress. This kind of therapy is extremely valuable for maintaining function for as long as possible.
Telehealth also allows patients to get treatment from a speech therapist that specializes in the type of therapy that they need. Speech therapy approaches for Parkinson’s and ALS are not identical, so this kind of optimization enhances the impact of therapy even further. While some patients were initially skeptical about the effectiveness of telehealth speech therapy, most have embraced the new technology.
An obvious concern is the need for very high sound quality when conducting speech therapy, and the use of headsets has helped minimize the risk of excess feedback or other sound problems.
While this is far from the only group of therapists that have taken advantage of telehealth for speech therapy, the success of telehealth so far suggests that its utilization will only continue to expand.