gms | German Medical Science

20. Deutscher Kongress für Versorgungsforschung

Deutsches Netzwerk Versorgungsforschung e. V.

06. - 08.10.2021, digital

Telehealth in speech and language therapy since COVID-19 pandemic: status quo – a survey in german speaking countries

Meeting Abstract

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  • Susann May - Medizinische Hochschule Brandenburg – Theodor Fontane, Neuruppin, Deutschland
  • Robert Darkow - FH JOANNEUM Gesellschaft mbH, Graz, Österreich

20. Deutscher Kongress für Versorgungsforschung (DKVF). sine loco [digital], 06.-08.10.2021. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2021. Doc21dkvf385

doi: 10.3205/21dkvf385, urn:nbn:de:0183-21dkvf3852

Published: September 27, 2021

© 2021 May et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the speech therapists were confronted with great and multi-layered challenges, initially resulting in a complete prevention of therapeutic interventions and in total highlighting the need for and the potential of telehealth implementations. Teletherapeutic interventions have so far hardly been implemented in speech therapy. In order to be able to maintain the speech therapy provision, speech therapists began to carry out digitally supported therapy. This project aims to provide information about potential occasion-related changes in the implementation mode of speech and language therapies during COVID-19.

Objective: The aim of the study is a systematic and differentiated recording of the use of telehealth interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the acceptance of telehealth. The survey also serves to identify barriers in everyday care in order to identify specific interventions for improved care, especially among vulnerable patient groups.

Methods: From May to June 2020 an online questionnaire among therapists in the D/A/CH region was conducted. The responses of n=723 were included in the analysis. The collected data were analysed descriptively. Open-ended questions were additionally analysed by qualitative content analysis.

Results: For the first time, the results support the clinical impression that teletherapy was not carried out to any significant extent before the pandemic. Teletherapy during COVID-19 is mainly carried out as a synchronous therapy via video telephony, apps or other asynchronous methods are not used and rarely recommended. Reasons for using telehealth during COVID-19: maintenance of therapy continuity; partially economic reasons. Telehealth offers new possibilities in care e.g. in remote rural regions. Disadvantages like dealing with therapy materials and disruptive factors in the home were as well mentioned as a heterogeneous view of digital treatment of different disorders. Barriers were mentioned like insecurity in using digital interventions, legal conditions vague, uncertain reimbursement basis. Further aspects: age, attention/cognition, setting, technology.

Discussion: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the day-to-day care of speech and language therapists has changed, and the impact is to bring ongoing changes, particularly with regard to practice organisation and the use of telehealth interventions. Due to their spontaneous reaction to the COVD-19 pandemic, the speech and language therapists were able to maintain their work despite high stress and to ensure adequate speech and language therapy care according to demand. Telehealth offers new opportunities and possibilities in speech and language therapy care and at the same time provides access to speech therapy treatment when face-to-face therapy is not feasible, for example, due to infectious events.

Practical implications: The implementation of teletherapy in standard care would be desirable to prevent potential therapeutical undersupply, whereby the sovereignty over the selection of the methodology should remain with the speech therapists.

Appeal for practice: Telehealth interventions can`t replace face-to-face therapy, but it can supplement it in certain scenarios.