A new survey of speech therapy patients shows a surprising difference between therapists and clients in the adoption of apps.
Speech therapy EMR software advisory, Software Advice, released the results from their questionnaire of over 2,000 patients and family members show that while three-quarters (74%) of patients use speech therapy software and/or apps for home practice, less than half (47%) report that the technology was recommended by their therapist.
Of the patients whose therapist did not recommend speech therapy software or apps, one-fifth (20%) say that their therapist raised opposition.
Improvements from App Use
This skepticism does not appear to be shared: nearly nine out of ten (89%) patients say they have seen improvement using apps for home practice. Of the actual patients who responded, or adult speech therapy clients rather than parents of child clients, 61% note “significant improvement” using apps or software. Perhaps it’s because almost half (49%) are using speech therapy software to practice every day.
Software as Home Practice
While speech therapy software ranked fourth in the patients’ list of preferred methods of home practice, ubiquitous mobile devices and a continually evolving array of speech therapy software choices are putting practice tools in the hands of patients who are very eager to use them.
If there is a disconnect between patients and therapists over the use of speech therapy software, it may arise from removing the interaction that is included with face-to-face practice; software is unable to replicate the feedback and flexibility that are inherent with a dynamic conversation. Indeed, many patients report that their preferred method of home practice is verbal exercises, and software cannot replicate that experience.
The Technology Gap
The more concerning number is the one-third of therapists who never mentioned technology at all. It is possible that technology was contra-indicated in these cases, but more likely is that these speech pathologists are not using and are not aware of the vast array of speech therapy software available.
It is very difficult to stay on top of all the options and latest developments in a field that is changing so rapidly. Just five years ago the iPad did not yet exist. Now there are hundreds of apps designed for therapy and hundreds more for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Clinicians not only need to keep up with the available apps and software, but also with the research supporting the use of technology.
Given that the top selection criterion for apps is ‘therapist recommendation’, patients are looking to their therapists for advice. With so many patients already using apps and reporting such positive results, it is becoming increasingly important for therapists to be well-versed in the selection of technologies. For patients and families searching out the best tools to use at home, an app prescription from their therapist may be the new way of handing out a home exercise program.
Keeping Up with Speech Therapy Software
So how can a busy speech therapy professional keep up with the latest apps, the best evidence, and the creative ideas, tips, and tricks for using speech therapy software or apps? There’s no simple answer, but following a blog like this, joining groups of similarly focused professionals on social media, and devoting time to professional development in areas of knowledge gaps are a great start.
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