Last Modified: 04/20/2015
Timely Diagnosis: A Resource Guide Supporting TeleAudiology
Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) systems work to ensure that infants are screened by 1 month of age, diagnosed by 3 months of age, and connected with early intervention services by 6 months of age – known as the 1-3-6 goal. Unfortunately, almost half of infants who do not pass their newborn hearing screening are “lost to follow up”, often due to the difficulty in accessing an audiologist with the needed pediatric expertise. This is particularly a challenge for families who live in rural and remote areas, hours from a pediatric audiologist.
Role of Tele-Audiology
Tele-audiology (T-A)- the implementation of audiological services via telehealth technologies –has great potential to ensure that infants who are in need of diagnostic audiology services can receive them in a timely manner.
Resources that describe the value of tele-audiology:
- Audiology to the People—Combining Technology and Connectivity for Services by Telehealth with De Wet Swanepoel, PhD
- EHDI 2013 presentation: The role of tele-audiology in supporting EHDI [PDF]
What is the Purpose of this Tool Kit?
The purpose of this guide is to share the lessons learned and recommendations for conducting remote diagnostic audiological evaluations with infants based on the experiences of professionals in six states and one Canadian province.
This tool kit serves to provide practical strategies and serves as a springboard to promote the use of tele-audiology as one way to ensure EHDI systems meet the needs of infants and their families. The overall process for providing diagnostic audiological services with infants is much the same as providing in-person clinical services, with some additional steps in terms of communication, staffing, and equipment.
Benefits and Challenges of Tele-Audiology
The ultimate benefit is that children who are deaf or hard of hearing (D/HH) are identified in a timely manner and connected with needed services to promote optimal development. Specific benefits are:
- Provides access to qualified specialists
- Reduces cost to families by reducing travel time and loss of work time
- Increases number of clients that can be scheduled in a day
- Ultimately, reducing loss to follow up and increasing timely diagnosis
Diagnostic evaluations of infants via tele-audiology has been demonstrated to be technologically feasible. However, the following challenges are significant in terms of supporting wide-spread implementation:
- Procedure can require more time due to the need to direct the assistant
- Specialist must feel confident with technology
- Some in-person follow up may be necessary
- Telehealth requires additional privacy and security procedures
- Funding and reimbursement varies by state and insurance source
- Some specialists may feel threatened by competition with telehealth