Telepractice: a real choice for quality therapy services in rural areas

Kim Bulkeley1, Monique Hines1, Simone Dudley2, Sue Cameron2

1University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2TherapyConnect, Australia

Background
Despite growing evidence of the effectiveness of telepractice, allied health practitioners (AHPs) have been slow to embrace this model. AHPs express concerns about the suitability of telepractice as a service delivery model, such as the impact on therapeutic relationships, possible safety implications, the willingness of clients and families to engage, and the effectiveness of child management in sessions online. Such concerns may be further exacerbated for practitioners in the disability sector. There is limited evidence of utility with people with disabilities, including intellectual disability who require complex and multifaceted supports. It is also unclear if contemporary disability practice and principles can be applied via telepractice.

Method
This presentation will focus on the qualitative in-depth interview data with seven participants from a mixed-methods, descriptive, multiple case study of telepractice services received by children with
disabilities, including intellectual disability living in rural and remote Australia.

Results
Telepractice was regarded highly by parents, therapists and the teacher.
Five themes emerged: (a) the journey to acceptance of telepractice; (b) consistency with person-centred practice; (c) the relationship-based nature of telepractice; (d) the role of technology as a vehicle for service delivery; and (e) skilled AHPs.

Implications
Our findings support telepractice as a legitimate service delivery model for disability therapy services. Perceived barriers around insufficient technology or proficiency with technology were successfully managed. Telepractice was found to incorporate contemporary disability practice, such as relationship-based, person-centred approaches employing collaborative coaching techniques that developed parents’ and teachers’ capacities to meet children’s learning and support needs.


Biography

Kim is an OT with over 25 years experience. She completed her PhD investigating a family centred intervention for young children with autism. Kim’s research is grounded in her work with people with a disability, particularly to develop and evaluate allied health service delivery with remote communities.

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The Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID) is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together research, policy and practice to improve the lives and services for people with a disability.

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