Telehealth implementation and practice in rural paediatric psychology, speech-language pathology and parent education services

Jessica Campbell1,2, Professor Deborah Theodoros1,2, Professor Trevor  Russell1,2, Professor Nicole Gillespie1,3, Dr Nicole Hartley1,3

1Centre For Research Excellence In Telehealth, School of Medicine, The University Of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 2School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 3UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Background: Rural Australian children are developmentally vulnerable compared to metropolitan peers and are likely to benefit from multidisciplinary paediatric services delivered via telehealth. A few poor-quality behavioural, communication and audiological studies with rural children can be found in the literature, but none describe service outcomes alongside implemention considerations. This study aimed to 1) evaluate the impact of telehealth across three models of paediatric allied health services to clients in rural communities and 2) understand changes in practices and processes involved in the adoption of telehealth.

Method: A mixed methods study was conducted on three telehealth service models within BUSHkids, a not-for-profit organisation that provides free allied health and education services to Queensland families. The models were: a metropolitan psychologist contributing to a rural multidisciplinary team; a speech-language pathologist in a rural service hub providing outreach therapy to a small rural town; and a parent education service provided by educators to rural parents in their homes by webinar. Quantitative data on cost, access, satisfaction and clinical outcomes were collected. Qualitative data on practice change were collected through case observations and semi-structured interviews.

Results: Analysis of data relating to the impact of telehealth on cost, access, satisfaction, and clinical outcomes will be presented alongside key practice changes necessary to implement telehealth services. Preliminary analysis suggests comparable cost outcomes, favourable access and satisfaction outcomes and mixed clinical outcomes. Preliminary key practice changes themes include role extension, adapting therapeutic presence, formalising practice, and managing sensory input and output.

Discussion: Providers must undergo key practice changes to implement telehealth services. This study is a unique and an innovative example of practice-based research and will be of interest to clinicians, managers, and researchers considering paediatric telehealth implementation.


Jessica Hay Campbell is a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist. She graduated Dean’s Scholar from the Master of Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Sydney in 2014. Her PhD scholarship is sponsored by BUSHkids (The Royal Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme). Her twitter handle is @jesshayc

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