A Pandemic Benefit:
Therapy From Home
Medical and speech therapy practices over the internet can result in faster diagnoses and treatments, increase the efficiency of care and reduce patient stress.
Even if no other good for health care emerges from the coronavirus crisis, one development — the incorporation of teletherapy into routine speech and medical care — promises to be transformative. Using technology that already exists and devices that most people have in their homes, therapy over the internet can result in faster diagnoses and treatments, increase the efficiency of care and reduce patient stress.
Without having to travel to a therapist clinic or a doctor’s office, patients can have many ailments “seen” on a computer, tablet or smartphone by a health care practitioner and have treatment prescribed as needed. For patients like me, who won’t return to medical offices that keep me waiting long past my scheduled appointment time, being able to “see” the therapist in my home most often at the prearranged time will be more than enough to encourage a televisit when feasible
One such area benefiting from this new reality is speech therapy where adults and children with speech delay, stammer and other ailments can receive full therapy from a licensed speech therapist from the comfort of their couch at home.
“We’ve seen a surge in clients seeking speech therapy as the Corona pandemic evolved" said Michelle Lachman, the founder of BetterSpeech.com, an online speech therapy service. "People started to realize that they can get the same quality therapy, that historically was received in clinic setting, online but with the convenience of getting it on their schedule and in the comfort of their own home. In addition, the cost of therapy they receive is more affordable as there's no need for expensive offices. Patients tend to be more relaxed and feel less rushed in their homes, leading to better therapy with faster results.” said Lachman.
“Teletherapy will definitely be part of the future of medicine,” said Dr. Emil Baccash, a geriatrician in Brooklyn, N.Y., who set up remote access for his patients when Covid-19 struck the city.
Dr. Baccash is my personal physician, and during a recent televisit, while I sat at my home computer, he diagnosed a likely rotator cuff injury by having me move my painful right arm into different positions. Although an M.R.I. is likely needed to confirm my exact problem, until the coronavirus threat eases and I can safely have the scan done, physical therapy exercises, also available via telemedicine, may alleviate it.
For nearly two months now, most patients have been unable or unwilling to access in-person care from health professionals. Even if someone is able to get to a doctor’s office or clinic safely, who wants to sit in a waiting room where you or another patient might transmit the infection? But with an internet connection through a computer, tablet or even a smartphone, patients can now safely receive therapy.
Televisits can also provide easy access to patients who live in rural communities many miles from good health care. For many common health problems or follow-up care, an in-office doctor visit may not be needed.
“Before Covid,” Dr. Fusaro said, “telemedicine seemed like a luxury, but more and more experts are now thinking that a technology-based health care experience will become the new normal.”
Regarding the outcome of teletherapy, in studies of patients infected with the liver-damaging hepatitis C virus, for example, the responses to treatment delivered via video teleconferencing have been as good as or better than among patients receiving in-person treatment. The same is true with speech therapy, were results are similar or better using online speech therapy as the convenience of the service enables patients to receive a more consistent treatment that delivers better results, faster.
Ms. Lachman added that she strongly suspects that “when the virus goes away, many people, who have now experienced the ease of video conferencing during the pandemic, will prefer online speech therapy to driving to a clinic.”