European health care researchers conducted a survey of speech-language pathologists in Italy to probe the views of practicing clinicians on the use of telerehabilitation (TR) technologies for the delivery of speech therapy services to clients during the COVID-19 lockdown, when meetings face-to-face for clinical sessions were discouraged The goals of the research were to document respondents’ experience with – and opinions about – TR as an alternative means of delivering speech-language therapy services.
The authors conducted an anonymous, on-line survey during July, 2020. It had 2 sections: the first gathered demographic information about respondents, and the second probed degree of engagement with TR during COVID-19 and asked five question: [i] how familiar were they with TR before the COVID-19; [ii] how important do they consider TR for providing speech therapy services during COVID-19; [iii] how feasible do they consider TR in providing their particular speech therapy services; [iv] how positive/negative do they feel about TR as an alternative form of speech therapy service delivery; and [v] how do they compare the clinical effectiveness of TR to that of their traditional practices. Participants registered responses to these five questions on a five-point Likert scale running from ‘1 = most negative’ through ‘3 = neutral’ to ‘5 = most positive’.
In all, 136 speech-language pathologists provided responses. Among respondents, 127 (93.4%) were female, 117 (86.0%) served primarily pediatric populations, and 69 (50.7%) were in their first decade of work (22-30 y/o). Most – 111 (81.6%) – were serving clients requiring speech-language instruction, while roughly a quarter – 33 (24.1%) served clients with aphasia. The majority of respondents to this survey were SLPs who had indeed chosen to utilize telerehabilitation options – 117 (86.0%), though 19 (14.0%) SLPs who had avoided this option also responded. The authors compare and contrast these two groups. They were essentially indistinguishable in their pre-lockdown degree of familiarity with telerehabilitation technologies, which was rated as low to very low by 74% of respondents in both groups. They did differ significantly in their degree of enthusiasm for the potential of telerehabilitation – for its importance, feasibility, and attractiveness as an option or adjunct to face-to-face treatment. Interestingly however – given the current state of technology – both groups felt that clinical effectiveness of such service deliver was at present either worse or much worse when telerehabilitation was used. Its potential is not yet realized.
For further reading: L. Cacciante, B. Cieślik, S. Rutkowski et al., 2021, Feasibility, acceptability, and limitations of speech and language telerehabilitation during COVID-19 lockdown: A qualitative research study on clinicians’ perspectives. Healthcare, 9(11), 1503 1-10. https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare9111503