Awareness, collaboration crucial to boost teleaudiology uptake
Despite a surge during COVID-19, the use of telehealth-supported access to audiologists is not being used to its full potential, according to new research from Flinders University.
“Like many other industries, the pandemic prompted the audiology industry to re-evaluate the potential benefits and uptake of audiology appointments online or over the phone,” said lead author, Boaz Mui, PhD student, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work.
“Whilst we found attitudes towards the use of teleaudiology were very positive, the actual usage remains very low with concerns about the widespread use of it and reporting a lack of trust in the system.”
Researchers interviewed 366 stakeholders (173 clients, 110 clinicians, 58 students, 19 academics and 6 industry partners) to explore the perceptions of telehealth usage amongst Australian hearing healthcare stakeholders, including audiologists, audiometrists, patients, students, academics and industry partners.
“Our study found that while 55% of patients were aware of teleaudiology appointments, only 7% had taken part in one. Moreover, 98% of patients had never been offered a teleaudiology appointment,” Mui said.
The research clearly shows that the technology works but there needs to be a shift in promoting the system. Not only to raise awareness but also to build trust, Mui said.
“Increasing the awareness of telehealth audiology services and developing collaborations between stakeholders will be crucial to improve the acceptance and usage of teleaudiology in the future.
“All stakeholders share an equally important role in increasing awareness and uptake of teleaudiology services. Audiologists and clinics are the first point of contact for clients who seek audiology services, and thus, they are in the best position to inform clients of available teleaudiology options.
“Industry partners can increase their promotional work to boost the usage of their teleaudiology products, as reflected by the fact that more than half of the clients in this study did not access teleaudiology apps simply because they were unaware of any,” he said.
Mui said that while health services are traditionally delivered face to face, they can create barriers for those who find it inconvenient to visit clinics in person.
Professor Raj Shekhawat, Dean of Research for the College of Education, Psychology and senior author, said that it is of great significance to evaluate telehealth models within the audiology sector to ensure better accessibility and inclusion.
“In the future, telehealth in Australia is likely to have a stronger place in primary healthcare policy and practice and an increased acceptance among patients.
“We need to implement a framework for clinicians to safely and effectively provide teleaudiology services and one that patients have trust in using,” Shekhawat said.
The study, Hearing Health Care Stakeholders’ Perspectives on Telehealth Implementation: Lessons Learned During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Pathways Forward, has been published in the American Journal of Audiology.
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