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Is Telehealth Swallowing Assessment & Management Safe & Effective?

To start off with, here are a few quick facts about Dysphagia (swallowing disorder):

  • Rapid evaluation of Dysphagia significantly lowers rates of aspiration pneumonia

  • Dysphagia increases the risk of morbidity and mortality

  • Early intervention is crucial for preventing malnutrition and pneumonia

  • Dysphagia is an extremely common symptom of a wide range of medical conditions including by not limited to:

    • Dementia & Aged Care

    • Stroke

    • Degenerative conditions (e.g. Parkinson’s Disease)

    • Developmental disability (e.g. Intellectual disability, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy)

Unfortunately, swallowing services are not easily accessed by some individuals.

In addition, Aged Care facilities often face challenges involved in swallowing assessment - including insufficient staffing and reduced access to specialists to meet current service demands .

Logistical barriers often significantly delay in-person dysphagia evaluation by Speech Pathologists both in remote and rural hospitals, home-care, aged care facilities and supported independent living facilities (SILS). This poses a significant health risk to individuals.

Luckily, studies have demonstrated viability and clinical equivalence for swallowing assessment and management via Telepractice,

Dysphagia evaluation by a remote SLP via telehealth IS safe and successful and a large number of studies have confirmed this.

For example: Morell et al., (2017) Dysphagia evaluation by a remote SLP via telehealth is safe and effective following stroke”

Ward, Sharma, Burns, Theodores, Russell (2012) concluded The data show that a CSE (Clinical Swallow Examination) conducted via telerehabilitation can provide valid and reliable outcomes comparable to clinical decisions made in the FTF (face-to-face) environment”.

Sharma, Ward, Burns, Theodoros, Russell (2013) revealed highly rated patient satisfaction with Telehealth swallowing examination.

When swallowing assessment and intervention is done by a trained therapist with appropriate set up, the benefits of telehealth for swallowing management is safe and effective. Additional benefits include:

- The delivery of prolonged and consistent therapy

- Timely management

- Improved collaboration with multi-disciplinary team

- Periodic monitoring to ensure maintenance of function

- Cost saving

- Quality of care

- Motivational when received in an one’s home environment

- Efficiency, safety and effectiveness

Telehealth offers an innovative and effective approach to Speech Pathology intervention. Funnily enough, this model of care has been researched way before the Covid-19 Pandemic even began.

For people with swallowing disorders, Telehealth allows for safe and effective service delivery, particularly to those requiring periods of intensive treatment and long-term management.

It is our goal to ensure that swallowing difficulties are minimised and quality of life is maximised.

Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions.


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