I admit it. I am an ASHA convention regular attendee. I am the SLP you see year after year collecting large yellow tote bags, company pens and my new favorite—nail files. This year, I even lined up to have my professional photo taken for my LinkedIn profile. I take in all that the ASHA convention offers, and my schedule allows, year after year.
One reason why the ASHA convention is so important to me is that I rarely stay in one place very long. I am the spouse of an active duty military officer. Therefore, I move a lot. With each move (eight so far), I’ve attended ASHA with a new job title: Department of Defense school SLP, hospital SLP, staff SLP, Lead SLP… This year, I attended ASHA as an SLP that works via telepractice. I deliver services and perform assessments via an online, custom built platform. I’m several states away from my students but I am licensed in the state where they reside and the state in which I reside. Using my home computer(s), a headset, webcam and high-speed internet connection with plenty of bandwidth, I treat, assess and collaborate with other SLPs, school staff and parents daily.
At this year’s convention, I encountered some surprising conversations regarding telepractice. I was met with responses ranging from: “Telepractice. I’m not so sure how I feel about that,” to “Yes, I’ve been looking into doing that. How does it work?” When embarking on a career in telepractice as a service delivery model, I was skeptical too. Was it ethical, effective and authorized? After researching ASHA’s rules and state bylaws, I put my feet in the water. That was four years ago.
During the ASHA convention, I was pleased to attend an increasing number of sessions focused on telepractice. However, these sessions highlighted the work and research still to be done to prove the effectiveness of telepractice as a service delivery model (especially with regards to culturally and linguistically diverse populations).
I still wonder, does an increase in sessions and visibility at the ASHA convention translate to increased acceptance/adoption by SLPs on the ground?
Telepractice is established and has been used in the medical field for more than 40 years. The American Telemedicine Association states that “telemedicine is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a variety of applications including two-way videos, smart phones, tablets, wireless tools and other forms of technology.” According to ATA, “the use of telemedicine has spread rapidly and is now becoming integrated into the ongoing operations of hospitals, specialty departments, home health agencies and private physician offices as well as consumers’ homes and workplaces.”
I am looking forward to next year’s ASHA convention in Denver. I am already wondering about the sessions, networking opportunities and of course the pens and highlighters. Most of all, I’m looking forward to attending ASHA again as a SLP working via telepractice and the discussions that will surely follow.
Lesley Edwards-Gaither , MA, CCC-SLP, is a Speech-Language Pathologist in the Washington D.C. area. She is a Lead SLP with PresenceLearning and an affiliate of Special Interest Group 18, Telepractice. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.