Teletherapy vs. In-person Therapy
Teletherapy involves using the Internet or other technologies to remotely connect speech therapists with clients, and this practice is on the rise as teletherapy can improve access to services and increases flexibility for therapists to meet caseload demands. While teletherapy can assist both therapists and families, early concerns about the effectiveness of remote care have led to further research. While studies continue, what does the current research have to say about outcomes associated with teletherapy vs. in-person care?
The short answer for speech and language is that the two settings are comparable in outcomes.
Let's dive into the research.
While teletherapy may not be appropriate for all students, early research shows that it is a very promising alternative to in-person therapy for many students, addressing challenges to access in some areas. A pilot study (Grogan-Johnson, 2021) treated two randomized groups of 17 students for speech disorders. The first group received teletherapy treatment for 4 months, and then conventional therapy for 4 months. The second group received conventional therapy for 4 months and then teletherapy for 4 months. Outcome measures included student progress, participant satisfaction, and interruptions to service delivery. Student progress reports showed the students made similar progress no matter the treatment method. There was no significant difference in GFTA-2 scores (Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation) between students, and satisfaction surveys shows the students and parents overwhelmingly supported the service delivery model. Absenteeism, often a concern cited in teletherapy literature, was roughly 21%, similar to cancellations in US public schools generally.
Another systematic review (Sanchez, 2019) assessed school-based telehealth programs using a dissemination and implementation model, reviewing findings from 20 separate studies on telehealth published between January 2006 and June 2018. The sample population included children in school- or center-based early childhood education under age 22. A small sample (n= 4) of speech language pathologists indicated average, above average, or very good ratings for five satisfaction measures regarding experiences with telehealth delivered speech language therapy, including average to very good likelihood of recommending teletherapy to colleagues (Grogan-Johnson et al., 2010). Stakeholder groups generally reported positive feedback on receiving, delivering, and coordinating teletherapy services.
The research on teletherapy is still early, and more studies are needed on some of the carryover effects of teletherapy to other measures of student success. However, the research about teletherapy is promising and shows improved outcomes for students in teletherapy programs.
Have questions about teletherapy? Reach out to a Sidekick therapist today!
Grogan-Johnson S, Alvares R, Rowan L, Creaghead N. A pilot study comparing the effectiveness of speech language therapy provided by telemedicine with conventional on-site therapy.Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare. 2010;16(3):134-139. doi:10.1258/jtt.2009.090608
Sanchez D, Reiner JF, Sadlon R, Price OA, Long MW. Systematic Review of School Telehealth Evaluations.The Journal of School Nursing. 2019;35(1):61-76. doi:10.1177/1059840518817870