A new study has found that speech therapy delivered online could be as effective as that delivered face-to-face, potentially presenting healthcare providers with a new way of treating patients in remote locations.
The research was carried out by healthcare services provider Baycrest and involved 44 people who had developed a communication disorder following a stroke at least six months previously.
They were each assessed and given a language skills test, then assigned a ten-week course of speech therapy either through telerehabilitation or in-person.
Following the course, each patient was given another language test and a questionnaire, plus their partners were asked for feedback concerning recovery.
It was found that the patients given speech therapy online demonstrated large improvements in their communication abilities, with little difference in results when compared to those who accessed face-to-face care.
Lead author Dr Jed Meltzer, writing in the journal Aphasiology, said the findings could be significant when it comes to helping patients post-stroke when they live in remote rural areas.
"Our study shows that telerehabilitation can remove this geographic barrier since participants saw similar recovery results," he added.
However, there was a difference in confidence between the two groups, with the telerehabilitation participants showing less confidence in their communication abilities.
Dr Meltzer said this demonstrates the vital role of speech-language therapists in creating and supervising treatment plans for patients, particular when care is delivered remotely.
The news comes after a survey by Rural England found that health is a more pressing concern for people living in the countryside than public transport, housing and crime.
It attributed this to many communities facing cutbacks in GP and NHS services.
Some 9.2 million people live in rural areas, or 17 per cent of the population. However, this rises to 23 per cent for over-65s, showing the importance of being able to provide care in a range of different ways for those with difficulty in accessing it.