Telehealth a game-changer for rural and remote allied health

  • Laptop on camp table on the beach
    The "beach office" of a speech pathologist working with Therapy Connect. Photo: Kirstyn O'Rourke
Therapy Connect
Simone Dudley, Occupational Therapist

Telehealth services are changing the game when it comes to connecting regional and remote clients to a range of quality allied health services across Australia.

But it is not just clients who are benefitting from the progressive online service – it’s the practitioners too.

Since Therapy Connect’s inception in 2015 as a provider of allied health services via telehealth, the demand for online services has increased significantly. The business has successfully expanded to not only provide speech therapy and occupational therapy but physiotherapy, psychology and dietetics services. Therapy Connect has a growing team of over 20 practitioners based all over Australia and is registered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to deliver therapy support and early childhood early intervention services in every state and territory.

There are many benefits of connecting participants who are rural and remote to services via telehealth. The flexibility of accessing services via telehealth can mean increased frequency of appointments, increased access to the range of different services, reduced travel. Consider a family that may live 90 minutes away from a town with two children requiring therapy supports. Via telehealth it is possible that this family, who requires a combination of speech, occupational therapy and psychology for both children, to have weekly access to services from home without hours of travel, missed work or school or long wait times.  For some families it may mean being able to accessing a service at all.

The online “anytime, anywhere” approach to telehealth also allows Therapy Connect to employ and retain a happy and healthy workforce. Because Therapy Connect can recruit to the demand this also means typically long wait times for client appointments are significantly reduced. In a time when recruiting an allied health workforce can be difficult, Therapy Connect has found just the opposite. Therapy Connect employs practitioners based upon skillset and experience from any location in Australia.  Because of the flexibility of working online, the practitioners can arrange their work hours and work locations to suit their lives.

“We even have a speech pathologist who is travelling around Australia with her family and decided to retain a caseload of clients to see fortnightly. She will arrange a work space and test the connectivity in the location she is based at before her scheduled appointments. This has worked really well for both the therapist who can obtain an income as she is travelling and the clients who don’t need to change their practitioner. Both the clients and the Therapy Connect team look forward to seeing where she will be working from each appointment. A recent location for her office was a sandy beach in WA…literally! Apparently the internet signal was the strongest. The best speech pathologist’s office lotion in Australia”.

Therapy Connect clients regularly report both surprise and delight at how effective accessing services via telehealth is.  They are surprised that the technology is not a problem, how quickly relationships are built with therapists, how much the children enjoy it and most importantly, they are delighted that telepractice works.

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