Speech-language Pathology Services Delivered by Telehealth in a Rural Educational Setting: the School’s Perspective
Introduction: Access to speech-language pathology services for children in rural and remote communities is often limited. Telehealth is increasingly used to provide these services to schools, demonstrating high satisfaction with both service providers and recipients, but the requirements for successful program implementation are as yet unclear. We aimed to explore the implementation requirements for a telehealth speech-language pathology service for children from the perspective of a rural school. Methods: A qualitative approach, supplemented by program activity data, was used to understand the experiences and perceptions of the benefits, limitations, enablers and barriers of a telehealth speech-language pathology program delivered to a school servicing approximately 400 children in a small rural town in the state of Queensland, Australia. Thematic analysis was conducted of transcripts of individual semi-structured interviews with nine school teaching staff and field notes of informal discussions regarding 85 speech-language pathology telehealth sessions (n = 9 children) during program establishment and implementation. Results: The speech-language pathology telehealth service was acceptable to teaching staff at the rural school, who cited improved access, the suitability of the technology for child engagement, and perceived effectiveness. Implementation issues were highlighted as critical to program success and scalability, particularly staff workload, technological issues, communication processes, and sustainability. Conclusion: School-based speech-language pathology services delivered via telehealth were perceived as a suitable way of increasing access for children by rural school staff. Future implementations of telehealth speech-language pathology programs should prospectively consider workload implications and develop strategies to communicate with and involve school staff.
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