The relationships between individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and their carers/families are often greatly improved by training in communication, but people living in remote areas may have limited access to these kinds of services. Researchers are exploring the possibility of using telehealth to bridge this gap.

Telehealth is a term used to describe the use of communication technology to deliver health services over a distance.

Recent reviews of telehealth as a means for supporting TBI carers have indicated positive results, but questions remain around whether these reviews can be applied to communication training.

Communication training depends upon the trainer's ability to assess the conversational abilities of the TBI patient, the support offered by their carer/family, and the way in which they interact.

This has lead to concerns that limited audio-visual quality offered by tele/video conferencing, coupled with its inability to provide broader information about the context,could present an inaccurate picture.

These concerns were taken up by research team led by Professor Leanne Togher from the University of Sydney.

The team assessed 20 cases of Telehealth being used for communication training in New South Wales by TBI patients and their carers/families.

The team's objective was to determine whether Telehealth could be effectively be used for this purpose, investigate the feasibility of Skype, and assess participants' satisfaction with the offered service.

Status

This research concluded with a report,confirming that video conferencing could be used to increased support access forthe TBI patients and their families.

The report flags, however, communication ability (both interms of the TBI patient and their carer and/or family) cannot be assessed over Skype as accurately and reliably as through a face-to-face session.

The report recommends that decisions concerning the use video conferencing should be made in consultation with individual families, with an awareness of both the benefits and risks involves.

It also recommends further research into more reliable methods for measuring communication ability remotely.