The Therapy Connect Story – Providing Access to Therapy Across Australia

Therapy Connect is a unique service in that they provide speech and OT supports to clients and families living all over Australia and even into Asia, all online via telepractice. They have a current team of 8 therapists. Their therapy team also live all over Australia.

They never meet their clients face to face. (unless on holiday!)

Telepractice, is “real-time delivery of assessment or therapy services by an allied health professional who links with a service user (parent, person with disability, education support worker, etc) by web based videoconference.”

 

Why did Therapy Connect start in telepractice?

How do they deliver therapy online?

Why do families keep coming back to Therapy Connect?

 

Why did Therapy Connect start?

Sue and Simone actually live on farms in regional areas in different states in Australia. They were introduced by a rural and remote allied health network due to their mutual interest in telepractice.  They both drove very long distances (hours) to provide speech and occupational therapy services in clinics. They knew that in rural and remote Australia families had a lack of choice of service providers and that people were waiting months and months for speech and occupational therapy services in regional and remote Australia.

The online world was changing the lives of families in rural and remote Australia. You could buy products and services online. Sue and Simone with the lived experience of isolation, believed that if they could work out how to deliver effective therapy supports online via telepractice, then TELEPRACTICE would have the potential to extend the reach of services and enable a family like theirs to have regular access to supports they need.

So…. They set about reviewing evidence and trialling approaches. The emerging evidence consistently suggested that telepractice; appeared to be as effective as face-to-face services, and was highly acceptable to consumers.

Having only met in person 3 times, but regularly via videoconference, Sue and Simone agreed that they were so aligned in their practice approach and thinking that they joined forces and in August 2015 Therapy Connect was formed.

 

How does Therapy Connect deliver therapy online?

Sue and Simone consider there are two main differences to delivering a telepractice service compared to a face to face service.

Families require support in the “setting up phase” – To connect online, conceptualise how it will work, determine who would be working, where they would be working and how it all looks. etc.

Secondly, they needed to figure out how to adapt their sessions and resources to support an online delivery.

A session plan is developed in advance. All parties know the session activities and resources to prepare or gather in advance. For example, we might need materials printed, laminated, scissors, cardboard etc ready. They may select from a family’s or school’s collection of toys, books, board games etc. They may assist a family to gather specific resources. They may use digital games or Apps that can be screen shared in real time together.

 

Why do families keep coming back to Therapy Connect?

Therapy Connect partnered in some research with The University of Sydney to look more closely at their model, achievement of therapy goals, parent satisfaction, process of sessions and families’ perceptions of accessing therapy online.

They found that families were enthusiastic about accessing therapy by telepractice because it provided them with regular and consistent access to therapists with expertise in disability.

Therapists, teachers and parents said there were NO issues in engaging children in telepractice sessions. In some instances, parents reported increased engagement with telepractice sessions than face to face sessions. This was a great surprise.

Families liked that therapy was occurring in environments that are familiar and natural to their children. They could have access to therapy from their home or school.

Families were highly satisfied that their children achieved functional outcomes across a range of goal areas and across contexts home and school while working with Therapy Connect.

The available evidence now suggests that accessing quality therapy by telepractice can support a person-centred approach consistent with contemporary disability practice.

Sue and Simone consider Telepractice is a legitimate choice for disability services. Telepractice has to potential to equalise access for those that can’t find services.

Telepractice is here to stay and Therapy Connect is a growing business!

 

www.therapyconnect.com.au