Miss Madeline Raatz1,2, Professor Elizabeth Ward2,3, Dr Jeanne Marshall1,2
1Speech Pathology Department, Queensland Children’s Hospital , Brisbane, Australia, 2School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 3Centre for Functioning and Health Research, Brisbane, Australia
Background: The delivery of paediatric feeding assessments via telepractice is a new and novel area of practice with limited evidence. Although there are a number of studies that have validated the use of telepractice to deliver swallowing assessments for adult clients, there are key differences between adult and paediatric services, thus limiting the transference of this evidence.
Aims: To gather information from speech pathologists (SPs) and parents of children with feeding difficulties to identify current feeding service delivery methods, the need for telepractice services, and enablers/barriers to the delivery of feeding services via telepractice.
Methods: SPs with paediatric feeding experience across Australia (n=84) completed a survey regarding feeding services, telepractice experience and perceptions of telepractice. A cohort of parents of children accessing feeding services at a state-wide clinical service (n=40) participated in individual interviews exploring issues with current services and exploring perceptions of receiving feeding services via telepractice. Information from both stakeholder groups was analysed separately, then synthesised to examine current practice and perceptions.
Findings: Although the majority of SPs and families were interested in telepractice feeding services, only 20% of SPs reported experience offering telepractice services. A range of benefits to telepractice services were identified by both groups including reduced distance/travel and the natural assessment environment. Families indicated a preference for a hybrid service model, with a combination of face-to-face and telepractice appointments. Both SPs and families raised some potential concerns about the safety and efficacy of conducting paediatric feeding assessments via telepractice. Additionally, SPs reported difficulty accessing regular videoconferencing technology and limited organisational support as a barrier to uptake.
Conclusions: Uptake of telepractice for the delivery of paediatric feeding services is currently low, however clinician and family interest is high. Further research is required to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of this service delivery model to inform clinical uptake.
Madeline is a senior speech pathologist at the Queensland Children’s Hospital and is currently undertaking her PhD at the University of Queensland. Her PhD aims to investigate the validity and reliability of using telehealth to provide paediatric feeding services.