Tele-rehab as effective as in-person speech therapy for stroke patients

Some patients may be hesitant to receive rehabilitation through telehealth services because they see the care as not as effective as in-person visits. According to a study published in Aphasiology, researchers found tele-rehab to be just as effective as in-persons visits.

"People with communication disorders, such as aphasia, are often provided with therapy only for the first few months after they have been diagnosed, despite evidence that therapy can benefit them for years," said Jed Meltzer, PhD, lead author and neurorehabilitation scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute. "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."

The study enrolled 44 patients who had a communication disorder caused by a stroke. After an initial in-person assessment, patients in the intervention group received homework and customized treatment plans through a tablet. Weekly one-hour sessions were conducted over 10 weeks for patients in the control group. Results showed the tele-rehabilitation treatment was as effective as in-person therapy.

“Clinician-guided computer-based treatment is effective for producing widespread gains in language and communication skills in chronic stroke,” wrote Meltzer. “Linguistic gains are equivalent whether clinician services are provided via telerehabilitation equipment or in person. Communicative confidence may still benefit from in-person treatment, reinforcing the need for social engagement in addition to deficit-focused linguistic treatment.”