Maximizing the Impact of Telepractice through a Multifaceted Service Delivery Model at the Shepherd Centre, Australia
Davis, Aleisha, Hopkins, Tracy, Abrahams, Yetta, The Volta Review
The Shepherd Centre is a nonprofit early intervention program in New South Wales, Australia, providing listening and spoken language services through an interdisciplinary team approach to children with hearing loss and their families. The program has been providing distance services to families in rural and remote areas of Australia and in other countries for over 35 years. Advances in communication technology and the global push towards telepractice and e-health service delivery models, and, in more recent times m-health (which is the use of mobile telecommunication and multimedia technologies integrated within mobile and wireless health care delivery systems; Istepanian, Laxminarayn, & Pattichis, 2006), compelled The Shepherd Centre to adapt their distance service delivery model to provide up-to-date, effective, and efficient telepractice services to families from rural areas.
This profile describes how the distance support program has adjusted its service to embrace telepractice through a low cost, accessible, and reliable framework. In addition, individual telepractice sessions are supported with a residential workshop program for families and professionals. Experience with this model has shown diat the workshop program maximizes telepractice outcomes by providing face-to-face follow up and combining the team and network support families need to be confident, empowered, and successful in guiding their children with hearing loss to listen and speak.
The Shepherd Centre was founded in 1970 by Dr. Bruce Shepherd, his late wife Annette, and their two children, who were born profoundly deaf. The Centre was the first of its kind in Australia to provide early intervention for children with hearing loss and the opportunity for families to guide their child to learn spoken language through listening. Beginning with just five families, the Centre now works with more than 300 families from five bases across Sydney and Canberra. In their search for an intervention program, Bruce and Annette Shepherd visited the John Tracy Clinic in Los Angeles, California, to learn about listening and spoken language options for their children. Upon returning to Australia, they were determined to provide a similar service to other families seeking a listening and spoken language outcome for their child with hearing loss. One of the integral aspects of the program has been the annual Workshop and Distance Education Program for families and professionals from rural and remote areas of Australia and from other countries. This program is based on the International Summer Session Program provided by the John Tracy Clinic.
For many years, families from rural and remote areas of Australia who were seeking a listening and spoken language outcome for their children attended the Centre's annual Residential Workshop and joined the Centre's correspondence program, in which they were regularly mailed session themes and activities to work on with their child. With the advances in communication technology and the global focus and trend towards telepractice, The Shepherd Centre investigated ways to provide this distance service more efficiently and effectively for both families and staff. The key focus of this change was to provide a means for families to regularly access all members of The Shepherd Centre team, including Listening and Spoken Language Specialists (LSLS(TM)), pediatric audiologists, child and family counselors, and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists, to provide the comprehensive services families need to facilitate optimal language outcomes for their children. Family experiences and feedback strongly indicated to the team that these telepractice services needed to be supplemented with intensive face-to-face group programs for families and local professionals, despite the extra geographical challenges, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the service.
Telepractice Services at The Shepherd Centre
With almost 70% of Australia's population living in cities (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2003) and with a land mass not much smaller than the United States, services in Australia are thinly spread. …