What Is Teletherapy?
Kristin Park, MS CCC-SLP
This month, we will be featuring information on teletherapy: what it is, how it works, and the efficacy of teletherapy compared to traditional, in-person therapy. This blog post comes at an unprecedented time in our nation’s history. As we practice social-distancing and reducing the spread of Coronavirus, many of us are wondering how this impacts the delivery of speech therapy services. Here is some information, gathered from reputable sources around the internet, on teletherapy and its role in speech-language pathology.
What is Teletherapy?
Teletherapy can be defined as “the application of telecommunications technology to delivery of professional services at a distance by linking clinician to client, or clinician to clinician, for assessment, intervention, and/or consultation.” (definition sourced from Lexercise.com)
Global Therapy (GlobalTherapy.com) also provides a great explanation of teletherapy: “Teletherapy is the online delivery of speech therapy services via high-resolution, live video conferencing. Teletherapy sessions are very similar to traditional speech therapy sessions with one major exception. Instead of sitting in the same room, clients and therapists interact via live video conferencing.
During therapy sessions, clients and therapists can see, hear, and interact with one another in real time, using webcams, headsets, and a live, synchronous online learning environment.
If you’ve ever used Skype on your computer or FaceTime on your iPhone, you’ve used a similar type of technology.
The actual therapy is the same as the therapist would deliver face-to-face, only teletherapy is done with a computer. Licensed therapists use traditional therapy techniques and activities. They enhance those techniques through innovative software and tools and have the technology literally at their fingertips to plan and deliver high-quality services.”
How Does Teletherapy Work?
Alyssa Conger, M.S. CCC-SLP, explains how licensure works for teletherapy (from an article on SpeechPathologyGraduatePrograms.org): “Telepractice is quickly gaining in popularity and is therefore regulated by many state licensing and compliance laws. The bottom line is, even if therapists are delivering services entirely online, they’ll be subject to all licensing laws applicable to where the clients they work with are located. It’s not nearly as complicated as it might sound. The solution is simply to hold and maintain a license in good standing for each state in which the clients reside.”
If your Speech-Language Pathologist is certified through the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (abbreviated ASHA), they will also need to comply with ASHA regulations when delivering teletherapy. According to ASHA’s website (ASHA.org), “Use of telepractice must be equivalent to the quality of services provided in person and consistent with adherence to the Code of Ethics, Scope of Practice in Audiology, Scope of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology, state and federal laws (e.g., licensure, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and ASHA policy.”
Teletherapy also needs to be HIPAA-compliant. This means that information shared on the platform is secured and confidential. TheraPlatform, one of the leading HIPAA-compliant teletherapy platforms in the business, recommends the following equipment:
- Web camera featuring 15 FPS (frames per second) capture rate (built-in or separate)
- Headset with attached microphone (analog or USB)
- High-speed internet connection (150 kbps minimum)
- HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software platform
Once a therapist confirms that they are adhering to the regulations set forth by the state, ASHA, and HIPAA policies, they must also confirm that the client’s insurance policy allows teletherapy as a billable service. While this is an ever-changing and quickly-evolving area of therapeutic practice, many insurance companies do not cover teletherapy services. It is important to check with insurance companies on an individual or case-by-case basis when determining candidates for teletherapy.
What is the Efficacy of Teletherapy?
A common question surrounding teletherapy: Is teletherapy “as good as” traditional, in-person therapy? Let’s start by considering the advantages and disadvantages of teletherapy (list adapted from VeryWellMind.com)
A research study published in the International Journal of Rehabilitation found that “both telehealth and in-person participants made significant and similar improvements when treatment effects were measured through five of the six outcome measures. Findings showed there is limited but promising evidence to support telehealth for delivering speech-language pathology intervention services to school-age children.” (see end of blog article for complete citation) This indicates that teletherapy can be just as effective in delivering speech therapy as its more traditional counterpart.
The bottom line is that teletherapy is a valuable and comparable tool that can be used to deliver therapy services to a variety of speech clients. Teletherapy provides us with more access to therapy resources than ever before, and makes the delivery of services even easier in some cases. In light of recent events, teletherapy has become a bit of a buzzword in the therapy community. Our society’s dependence on technology will only make teletherapy even more important over the next few years!
To learn more about teletherapy services provided by Premiere Speech and Hearing, call our office at (610) 454-1177 or (717) 661-1055 or contact us on our website, PremiereSpeechHearing.com/ContactUs.
Wales, Danielle et al. “The Efficacy of Telehealth-Delivered Speech and Language Intervention for Primary School-Age Children: A Systematic Review.” International journal of telerehabilitation vol. 9,1 55-70. 29 Jun. 2017, doi:10.5195/ijt.2017.6219