Transportation Barriers Disrupt Clinic Appointments for Speech Therapy: Virtual Sessions Overcome Challenges, Impact Health

Transportation Barriers Disrupt Clinic Appointments for Speech Therapy: Virtual Sessions Overcome Challenges, Impact Health

Transportation significantly impacts health, well-being and quality of life. It is also key to addressing social determinants of health (SDOH) as transportation barriers often impact travel to brick-and-mortar office appointments for speech therapy.

When there’s limited or no access to public transit services or use of a vehicle, further complicated by long distances and lengthy times to reach a speech therapy clinic for needed services, people are more likely to miss appointments and are unable to achieve their speech therapy goals. 

In fact, one recent study confirms that more than 1 in 5 U.S. adults without access to a vehicle or public transportation missed or skipped a medical appointment in the previous year. Another study quantifies that each year, 3.6 million people in the United States do not obtain medical care due to transportation issues. Additional challenges include mobility limitations that prevent someone from driving a car or even boarding a train or bus when available.

Avivit Ben-Aharon, founder and clinical director, Great Speech, points out in a recently published article in Healthcare IT News that nationwide access to online speech therapy allows anyone who is committed to improving their communication to receive expert services, regardless of location, scheduling limitations or lack of transportation. This approach may enable individuals to accomplish their goals faster and possibly in fewer sessions than when they travel to a brick-and-mortar therapy clinic.

She says experience shows that patients are less stressed in engaging in therapy when they are in a comfortable home setting, and caregivers are more closely involved to help support the client between sessions. On average, virtual speech therapy enables individuals to accomplish their goals faster and in fewer sessions than when they travel to a brick-and-mortar therapy clinic. Fewer sessions also add up to savings for patients and families. This promotes consistency and routine, with regularly scheduled virtual therapy sessions leading to reduced anxiety about receiving assistance and creating a solid routine for speech therapy services in a familiar environment. 

Resolving Transportation Issues for Specific Populations

Transportation barriers impact people of all ages, but here are some examples of specific groups that can benefit from uninterrupted scheduling through access to virtual speech therapy: 

Benefits of Speech Therapy for Kids with Cerebral Palsy and/or Autism

Transportation challenges significantly impact children with cerebral palsy (CP) where ongoing speech therapy services effectively address cognition, communication, and behavior. CP may also involve comorbid conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and many children may have limited or compromised speech or need help in forming words and sentences. In fact, the CDC advises that the most common developmental therapy for people with ASD is speech and language therapy whichhelps to improve the person’s understanding and use of speech and language.

By removing attendance barriers caused by transportation problems, online speech therapy for kids with cerebral palsy or autism helps them to achieve personal and family goals. Expanded scheduling options, such as those offered by virtual care options, help parents to juggle busy work schedules and access the services of certified speech and language pathologists on behalf of their children.   

Benefits of Speech Therapy for Cancer Survivors

Transportation issues disproportionately affect all cancer survivors, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology. But the impact of missing appointments with a speech therapist are particularly difficult for people surviving oropharyngeal cancer, which includes cancers of the tonsils, base of the tongue and other parts of the throat. Survivors may go on to develop voice and speech symptoms even years after treatment, with moderate to severe voice symptoms that can include a voice that sounds hoarse, raspy or weak, and speech that sounds slurred, resembling drunken speech. 

The ability to communicate is important to quality of life: if patients are self-conscious about the way they sound, they may speak less, which can lead to feelings of isolation and other problems. Here again, a virtual speech therapy solution not only effectively addresses vocal communications, but also helps individuals to avoid other SDOH. 

Benefits of Speech Therapy for Seniors

Transportation mobility among older adults is critical for accessing health care services, such as speech therapy, and for aging-in-place. There is a growing concern that older adults will become increasingly transportation disadvantaged as the sociodemographic composition of the United States continues to change. 

Speech therapists can provide virtual care to seniors and Medicare Advantage enrollees nationwide, relieving transportation concerns and meeting individual needs to improve communication skills in a discreet, comfortable home setting. As people grow older, their vocal cords often become less elastic, and larynx muscles may weaken. These issues can make it difficult to talk and while they are often considered part of the natural aging process, they may also result from other health conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s and dementia-related skill loss 
  • Adult Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Cognitive communication disorders 
  • Head and neck cancers 
  • Hearing loss 
  • Language and articulation disorders 
  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Stroke and Aphasia rehabilitation  
  • Stuttering 
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) 
  • Voice disorders 
  • and more/

When transportation stands in the way of accessing care, seniors can turn to virtual speech therapy to:  

  • Re-learn how to speak, using vocal exercises to help them once again communicate effectively
  • Stimulate and improve speaking, reading, writing, comprehension and cognitive ability which are vital for overall health
  • Communicate properly with doctors, nurses, and loved ones and express themselves about any pain, discomfort or other simple issues

Never Miss a Speech Therapy Session!

Online speech therapy programs eliminate transportation barriers to care, and continuous, ongoing access to care adds up to improved health outcomes, greater self-confidence and faster results with reduced costs. These benefits deliver value to members and the growing number of commercial and Medicare Advantage insurance plans that are now covering in-network Great Speech virtual speech therapy services:

  • Amerigroup NJ
  • Avmed Medicare FL
  • BCBSIL Medicare & commercial  
  • CarePlus Medicare FL
  • Careington  
  • Centivo  
  • Cigna Commercial  
  • Cigna Medicare Advantage
  • Devoted Medicare FL 
  • DialCare  
  • Geisinger   
  • Healthcare Highways  
  • Healthnet, a Centene company  
  • Humana Medicare FL
  • MMM of Florida Medicare FL
  • Molina Medicare & Commercial FL
  • Molina Georgia
  • Optum / NAMM California 
  • United Healthcare Florida  
  • Wellcare GA
  • Zenith American

Great Speech accepts HSA/FSA & private pay clients.   

To learn more about the online speech therapy services available for children and adults, contact Great Speech and schedule an introductory call today.