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Tele-therapy - Therapy during COVID-19


Hello, everyone! I hope this post finds you well. After some discussion with staff at SFS Therapies, I decided to write a post regarding tele-practice and therapy online. I feel many of us have been pushed online to seek out one service or another that we would typically have sought out in person. The era of COVID-19 is leading to various changes including a big push to have more services and materials available online. Pre-COVID-19, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) were unable to bill for services provided online; however currently, insurance companies are covering many services to ensure people get the help they need without incurring undue risk of potentially getting novel coronavirus.


What is tele-therapy or tele-practice?

Tele-practice or tele-therapy can occur across various locations including private clinics, schools, and hospitals. Although there are different types of teletherapy, I’d like to focus on synchronous services or services that involve interactive audio and video in real time with a clinician and a patient. Thanks to technology and various tele-practice platforms, providers and patients can effectively interact remotely and share appropriate materials, strategies, and exercises as needed. Tele-therapy can be conducted via a smartphone, computer or laptop using Internet connectivity. At SFS Therapies, staff from the front office help to ensure that patients have appropriate capability to access the tele-therapy platform effectively before any therapy is ever conducted.


Who is it for?

Tele-therapy works for most people if you have the necessary tools (i.e., Internet capable device, Internet access, and a place to focus/complete therapy sessions). With younger children, teletherapy can incorporate handouts, interactive activities, games, and online websites. It can also utilize items in the home and the SLP can facilitate play between a caregiver and a child. Often, parents will be needed for therapy sessions no matter the treatment method to ensure patients stay on task and stay focused during activities. With older children, tele-therapy can incorporate the above-mentioned platforms to address speech-language difficulties in a more structured manner. For adults, handouts and appropriate materials can still be shared and provided online. Additionally, exercises and strategies can still be effectively discussed, demonstrated, and practiced. Technology can be a barrier for some individuals, but most individuals are able to understand and access tele-therapy platforms with relative ease. Certain therapies such as voice therapy may be somewhat harder to manage; however, it can still be implemented effectively online with most people. For individuals with significant behavioral concerns, patients are likely better off attending therapy in-person, so that clinicians can better manage the behavior with more hands-on strategies. Overall, teletherapy is an effective tool for most individuals given the appropriate support.


What are the benefits of receiving therapy online?

With tele-therapy, patients can conduct therapy remotely where it is convenient for them. Tele-therapy saves time. They don’t have to get in the car and drive anywhere, and tele-therapy can incorporate everyday items in their actual natural environment. Being in a more natural environment may also offer additional comfort and relaxation to some patients, which may allow them to be more open and interactive. Activities can often be more readily shared giving the patient or caregiver immediate access to said activity.

My own experience…

As a clinician that is actively using tele-therapy with patients and as a person that has personally received medical services online on two separate occasions since COVID-19 began, I have a unique perspective on tele-therapy and tele-services overall. From the patient’s perspective, I acknowledge that the level of interaction may be impacted when not doing therapy in-person. You’re unable to see a person’s full body language and body positioning. However, I love the convenience of hopping online at my scheduled appointment time and talking with my provider without delay. I don’t have to go anywhere, and I can participate in the appointment right where I am. The ease of it makes it hard for me to think of ever going back to the old way of getting services. As an SLP, I enjoy providing services both in-person and online. However, during COVID-19, I think it makes a lot of sense to shift services online where appropriate and where possible. I think it is important to acknowledge the potential risks related to COVID-19 for patients, caregivers, and providers. Tele-therapy helps to minimize these risks. For my adult and pediatric patients, they are still experiencing benefit and positive change using tele-therapy. Many younger patients seem to participate even better online. Personally, I think it is because they enjoy using the technology associated with tele-therapy. I also really like being able to share resources with patients and caregivers immediately as I thought comes to mind or as a question is presented to me.


Final thoughts…

I feel that tele-therapy is the way of the future. I think that more and more people are going to be receiving services online. Tele-therapy is appropriate for most people and is definitely at least worth a try to see how tele-therapy can benefit you. During COVID-19, tele-therapy just makes sense because even if restrictions are put in place, you can still access the much-needed services you want and need. In most circumstances, postponing therapy is detrimental to overall therapeutic progress and development, so please keep tele-therapy in mind, keep on working, and keep on improving.

Thanks for reading and I hope you get some benefit out of reading this post. If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy other posts at https://www.sfstx.com/blog.








Author:

Devin Fisher

M.S., CCC-SLP

devinf@sfstx.com




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