When Ali Heller’s son, Julius, first started speaking, she noticed he had some trouble with stuttering. Family and friends told her not to worry about it and that he would grow out of it. However, at 3 years old, his stuttering had not gone away, moreover, it was beginning to cause him frustration and anxiety. Ali realized that he would need help. She took him to the doctor and got speech therapist referrals, and she talked to his school to start his speech therapy sessions, but weeks went by without any response from them. Frustrated by the administrative red tape, she started looking for speech therapists on her own and stumbled upon Andrea White’s practice, Berkshire Speech & Language therapy. Unlike the school and physician referrals, Berkshire returned her call immediately.
The only problem was Ali’s health insurance did not cover Andrea White’s practice, so White proposed doing online speech therapy sessions. At first, Ali was concerned that Julius wouldn’t be able to receive the same level of care – Would he respond as well over video? Would he miss gestural and verbal cues? Would she have trouble with the technology? But the first session was a smashing success, completely relieving her concerns about doing online speech therapy. The VSee video chat tool was easy to use, and Julius and White hit it off immediately over video chat. It also saved Ali the one-and-a-half hour road trip she would otherwise have had to make for a face-to-face appointment.
Why Online Speech Therapy?
In fact, according to this white paper, speech therapy telepractice is proving to have a variety of benefits for both practitioners and patients:
- Convenience of therapy coming to people in their own home
- Lower cost of travel
- Easier scheduling
- Services received in a natural environment which allows the patient to feel comfortable and offer improved opportunity for carryover of new skills due to involvement of caregivers and siblings
- Increased work productivity for therapists
- Access to top quality speech language pathologists (SLPs) even in areas with critical resource shortages
- Access to multilingual SLP’s
This has definitely been true for Ali and Julius’s case. White notes that while tele-therapy won’t work for all children, most children enjoy using technology and are familiar with communicating over applications like Skype. With a simple, secure telehealth tool, like VSee, the problem is less with technology and more about being able to find that connection with the child. White explains that doing tele-therapy actually helps speed up the connection process. For example, since Julius was at home, he was able to show off his toy trains to White and later to run upstairs to get his favorite book, which they then read together almost as though they were sitting together on the couch. In addition, Ali had set up the webcam so Julius could move around the room and still be seen. All of these comfort factors helped Julius get over his shyness quickly so they could work on making his speech more fluid.
White adds, “Patients can often do very well in a setting with the therapist, however, generalizing the skill is difficult. The therapist either needs to go out and see the patient in an outside surrounding or the patient has to be able to articulate the issue to the therapist. That’s why in my practice I do a lot of home visits. However it’s a big commitment time-wise, so tele-therapy makes so much more sense.”
She says, “It also makes scheduling so much easier. Instead of us going back and forth trying to figure out a good time slot which might not have been until weeks later, I was able schedule Ali for a session that Friday. It was also no problem to reschedule a session we had the following Monday when Julius just happened to be napping. I mean how nice is that to not have to wake a sleeping child, pack him into the car, and drive him down to a strange place to see a strange person?”
She further remarks, “I can also see it being a great way to follow up on patients who have finished their therapy sessions but just want to check in or have a quick brush up session.”
Berkshire Takes Speech Therapy Around in the World
White has always been interested in tele-therapy since she lives in a mostly rural area where travel distance is sometimes a barrier for patients. This is especially true for those in Vermont (where White is also licensed) where many communities are quite far from the nearest Speech-Language Pathologist. However, she really decided to go for it last fall after she had complications trying to work with two students at Williams College who wanted speech therapy, but had complex schedules and no transportation.
One of the difficulties she found going online was finding the right technology for tele-therapy. Even with today’s improvements, research suggests that technology is one of the main barriers to tele-therapy. While many video chat solutions exist, they can be very expensive, need specialized equipment, or require excellent broadband Internet connection. Moreover, few can claim to be HIPAA-compliant.
Berkshire actually tried a few systems that offered HIPPA-compliant video chat services for psychotherapists. Not only were they expensive when compared with VSee (which offers free group video chat), other video chat services proved to be very cumbersome to set up, especially from the patient’s perspective. VSee was very easy to use. It didn’t require mailing equipment or following complicated instructions, and the connection was stable. Ali, who doesn’t consider herself particularly tech-savvy, was able to get on to VSee within minutes of receiving an email invite from Berkshire.
For White, the ability to do tele-therapy has been very empowering. It erases many of the scheduling and distance limitations she has and allows her to serve clients anywhere in Massachusetts, Vermont, and even outside of the U.S. In fact, Berkshire is beginning to offer its remote speech therapy services to American expatriate schools and communities in foreign countries where it can be difficult to find such specialized care.
Tele-therapy – Better Service, Better Care
Online shopping services like Amazon and Etsy changed the way we shop smarter, find specialized goods, and make our lives more convenient. Now disruptive technology like VSee is making tele-therapy and telemedicine more widely available to everyone. For therapists or physicians such as White, practicing telehealth can now be easy and cost-effective. For patients such as Julius, having tele-therapy and telehealth available gives Ali the option of getting the timely, effective health care that he needs.
Learn more about VSee telehealth.