Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) at the University of Kentucky’s Communication Sciences & Disorders Department and Department of Rehabilitation Sciences have published a systematic review of literature from 2014 to 2020 that focuses on telepractice for SLP service delivery (screening, assessment, treatment) to adults. ASHA defines telepractice as ‘the application of telecommunications technologies to the delivery of speech language pathology and audiology professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client or clinician to clinician for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation’.
The authors searched 5 databases (PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, EBSCOHost, CINAHL) and Google Scholar for candidate articles, using Boolean searches of the format ‘telehealth’ OR ‘telepractice’ … AND ‘SLP’ OR ‘speech therapy’ … AND ‘aphasia’ OR ‘dysphagia’ OR ‘stuttering’, etc. Items returned by these searches were reviewed against 6 inclusion criteria, including ‘all participants ≥ 18 years old’, ‘peer-reviewed, published articles’, and ‘addresses screening, assessment, or intervention via telepractice’, for qualification.
Of 125 candidate items, 31 articles qualified for final analysis. 48% of these focused on persons with aphasia of various types, mostly chronic, 16% focused on Parkinsonism, 13% – dysphagia, 10% – PPA, with the remainder split between TBI, voice disorders, and mixed populations. Most studies were quasi-experimental, lacking a control group. Meta-analysis was deemed inappropriate due to heterogeneity of populations and outcomes, so the authors conducted qualitative analyses and summarized the findings.
Results were largely positive. Telepractice was found to be broadly comparable to face-to-face service delivery for the various clinical activities, as well as for the various disorders. For instance, five studies analyzed accuracy of assessment in dysphagia or aphasia, and all authors found high agreement between remote and in-person conditions. Several interventions in aphasia were also analyzed, e.g., naming therapy, group therapy, and script training, and studies showed overall positive results demonstrating practical clinical utility. The authors conclude this systematic review suggests efficacy of telepractice, though broader, more systematic and rigorous studies are required for certainty.
For further reading: K. Weidner, & J. Lowman, 2020,
Telepractice for Adult Speech-Language Pathology Services: A Systematic Review. Perspectives, ASHA SIG18, 5(1): 326–338, https://doi.org/10.1044/2019_PERSP-19-00146