Telehealth Services

Telehealth Services

Introduction

We are happy to provide speech pathology services via telehealth to families and individuals across Australia.

How do telehealth services compare with in-person (face-to-face) services?

This is a common question we receive from families. It is understandable to be nervous about accessing a new technology, and about accessing services via telehealth for your partner or child when your experiences of working or learning online have been challenging.

Let’s look at what happens in a face-to-face speech pathology appointment, and what happens in a speech pathology appointment via telehealth:

1. The speech pathologist will review your progress towards your goals since your last appointment. The speech pathologist will discuss this with you, and may listen to you/your partner’s/your child’s speech.

This looks the same in both types of services, although over a screen for telehealth.

2. The speech pathologist will discuss the strategies you have tried since the last appointment, and will ask about what has/hasn’t worked, and any difficulties you have encountered.

This looks the same in both types of services, although over a screen for telehealth.

3. The speech pathologist will observe your strategies or treatment activities (with your partner or child, if applicable).

This looks the same in both types of services, although over a screen for telehealth.

4. The speech pathologist will discuss recommendations for next steps, based on your response to the current strategies. You will work with the speech pathologist to decide which option(s) to try next. This typically includes:

  • Continuing the current strategies or treatment activities for a longer period of time
  • Modifying the current strategies or treatment activities if they have not produced the expected results
  • Introducing a new or different treatment strategy or treatment activity

This looks the same in both types of services, although over a screen for telehealth.

5. The speech pathologist will demonstrate any modifications or new strategies. You will work with the speech pathologist, and practice using the strategies yourself as you feel confident. The speech pathologist will give you any help needed, and will answer any questions you have.

This looks different between face-to-face and telehealth services, with the speech pathologist using a variety of strategies to demonstrate strategies over the screen.

6. The speech pathologist will make a plan with you about how you can use this strategy at home to continue working towards your goals.

This looks different between face-to-face and telehealth services, with the speech pathologist using a variety of strategies to demonstrate strategies over the screen.

My child didn't do well with online learning/video call with family - how can we access telehealth?

When online learning has been a struggle, it makes sense to assume a child would have similar difficulties accessing telehealth.

It may help to remember that speech pathology is an allied health service, rather than an education service, and so appointments (both face-to-face and via telehealth) look more like other healthcare appointments, rather than school lessons or other children’s activities.

Your child only needs to engage directly with the speech pathologist for one out of the six components of each appointment, and this is only for some types of treatment. If your child is not able to engage with the speech pathologist over the screen, your speech pathologist has other ways to effectively demonstrate necessary strategies and trial and establish these with your child.

Won't in-person (face-to-face) services by easier?

It depends on the specific concern:

  • If you have a concern related to your internet connection or device, then yes, face-to-face services will not present the same difficulty
  • If your concern is related to the level of caregiver involvement required to support a child or young person to access telehealth services, then please be aware that there will not be a difference if you choose in-person (face-to-face) services

At Northside Speech, we recommend treatments based on:

  • The type of communication difficulty experienced by an individual
  • Your goals (what you want to achieve from treatment)
  • The types of treatments available to meet those goals, for a child with that type of difficulty

Many types of treatments require caregivers to be actively involved throughout the process, while few types of treatments are able to be effective without this level of involvement. You should expect to be actively involved throughout every appointment, whether in-person (face-to-face) or via telehealth.

Just as you would not expect to be able to drop your child off at their GP, and pick them up again, and have them be able to explain their diagnosis and treatment plan, you should expect to be involved throughout your child’s speech pathology service. And just as you would not expect to return to your physiotherapist week after week, continuing to pay for appointments, without having at least trialled the exercises they prescribed, you should expect to come away from each speech pathology appointment with something to try at home, and a plan to make this work for you and your family.

If you have concerns regarding your ability to be involved in your child’s speech pathology service, or you have questions about the types of treatments available for your child’s communication difficulty and your goals, you are advised to consult your speech pathologist to discuss this.

Northside Speech will not provide a service that we believe is unlikely to meet your goals (i.e. that you would continue to pay for appointments but there would be no results).

Are telehealth services as effective as in-person (face-to-face) services?

There is a growing body of research in this area, and studies comparing in-person (face-to-face) delivery of speech pathology services to telehealth delivery of speech pathology services have found no significant difference between outcomes.

This is consistent with our clinical experience of providing telehealth services. At Northside Speech we have experienced:

  • No significant difference between outcomes of families participating in in-person (face-to-face) or telehealth services
  • No significant difference in frequency of ‘therapy burnout’ (needing to take a break or discharge from services due to overwhelm and fatigue) between families participating in in-person (face-to-face) or telehealth services

This means that there are individuals who do not make expected progress from telehealth services, just as there are individuals who do not make expected progress from in-person (face-to-face) services. And there are families who discharge from telehealth services due to ‘therapy burnout’, just as there are families who discharge from in-person (face-to-face) services due to ‘therapy burnout’. However, there is no statistical correlation between either of these and the mode of service delivery.

What do I need to access telehealth services?

To access a telehealth appointment with Northside Speech, you will need:

  • A reliable internet connection. Your telehealth call will use data from your internet plan.
  • A device with a camera and microphone

You do not need to download any special app to access your appointment with us. We use Cliniko to host our telehealth services, which is a secure healthcare platform. You can find out more about Cliniko, including FAQs and troubleshooting, on their website.

How can I prepare for my telehealth appointment?

  • Have your link ready. Your link will be included in your reminder SMS/email. Each appointment has a unique link, so you will need to check your reminder message for every appointment. Your link will become ‘active’ 10 minutes before the start of your appointment.
  • Make sure your device is connected to the internet, and the camera and microphone are working.
  • Ensure you are in a space that is free from distractions, and in which you/your partner/your child are not concerned about being overheard.
  • If you are attending with a child, have an activity ready to occupy your child while you are talking with the speech pathologist.

What do I do if something goes wrong during the call?

If something goes wrong, you can ask your speech pathologist to help you troubleshoot. If you can’t hear your speech pathologist, or your speech pathologist can’t hear you, you can access a chat window in the top right corner of the screen. You can also phone your speech pathologist. You can access more troubleshooting information from Cliniko on their website.

Your speech pathologist will make every reasonable effort to begin your appointment on time. If you do not log on within 5 minutes of the scheduled start time, your speech pathologist will email you to check whether you are having difficulty accessing the appointment. Your speech pathologist will remain on the call until 15 minutes past the scheduled start time, and will then log off if you have not arrived or contacted them and you will be charged for nonattendance in line with our Fee Schedule and service agreement (terms and conditions of service).

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