Dr Rebecca Sutherland1,2, Dr Antoinette Hodge1, Ms Esther Chan1, A/Prof Natalie Silove1
1Children’s Hospital At Westmead , Westmead , Australia, 2University Of Canberra, Bruce, Australia
Background and Objectives: Telehealth is rapidly becoming an essential part of many speech-language pathologists’ core business, and yet the experiences and opinions of community-based therapists in using telehealth remain relatively unknown. This paper describes a recent study in which speech-language pathologists in community settings were provided with access to a standardised language assessment within a telehealth platform and asked to provide feedback about their experiences.
Method: Twenty-seven speech-language pathologists in paediatric practice were recruited via callouts on social media, community contacts and professional networks. The participants were provided access to a telehealth platform with a built-in standardised language assessment and asked to use the assessment with their own caseload as clinically indicated and provide feedback after each assessment. Questionnaire data was collected via an online survey system (Formstack) and contained questions about each assessment including the technical quality of the telehealth platform, the most enjoyable and most difficult aspects of the assessment and their overall experience of the platform.
Results: More than 100 assessments were completed during the three-month trial, with clinicians reporting that on most occasions, video and audio quality were adequate or better, and that interactions with their child clients were effective. Qualitative data indicated that technical difficulties were a drawback to the assessments, but that ease of use of the assessment, the added functionality of using the assessment within the telehealth platform and the unexpected benefits of telehealth were seen as positive elements.
Conclusions: This study adds clinicians’ voices to the research into telehealth, indicating that the assessments were generally easy to use, effective and provided an unexpected depth of insight and connection for clinicians and their clients. Future research may consider the voices of other stakeholders in telehealth interactions, including parents and the child clients.
Rebecca Sutherland currently works at the Child Development Unit, Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and as an assistant professor in Speech Pathology for the University of Canberra. She has a PhD from Griffith University, focused on telehealth for diverse learners, including children with autism. Rebecca’s research and clinical interests include Speech and Language Pathology, autism, literacy and telehealth.