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Speech and language therapy courses delivered over the internet can have significant benefits for patients who do not have access to a trained therapist in their local area, according to new research.
A study published in the journal Aphasiology and carried out by scientists from Baycrest's Roman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada found that telerehabilitation speech and language programmes can help to dramatically improve speech function for people who have suffered strokes.
A total of 44 stroke patients were recruited for the study, all of whom had suffered their stroke six months before the investigation began. They each had their speech and language skills assessed at the start of the project and again following ten weeks of online speech therapy sessions. Their partners were also asked to provide feedback on how they felt the patients had progressed.
Marked improvements in speech and language skills were recorded following telerehabilitation, with the researchers believing that their findings demonstrate the benefits that providing access to expert-designed online courses can have for patients. Overall, the results were broadly similar to those achieved via in-person speech therapy.
Telerehabilitation could therefore be especially useful for those who are also suffering from mobility issues as a result of their stroke, allowing them to recover some of their speech function without having to leave the house, which will still go some way towards improving their quality of life.
Lead author of the study Dr Jed Meltzer explained: "Location can limit a patient's access to a speech-language pathologist, especially for individuals living in rural areas.
"Our study shows that telerehabilitation can remove this geographic barrier since participants saw similar recovery results."
Speech-language pathologist Maria Piccini added that stroke patients were also more likely to complete a course of speech therapy if it was delivered online, as neither their age nor their mobility issues would prevent them from accessing sessions.
Scientists are now working on exploring other uses for telerehabilitation, such as using it to prompt patients to take their medication.
Written by Martin Lambert
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