MU program expands access to therapy for brain-injury patients.
Name: SRUTHI KUNNEL
The MU telehealth program, which helps people with brain injuries receive care from people closer to them, matched 70 traumatic brain-injury patients from rural communities with clinicians who received training from neuropsychologists through video teleconferencing
The telehealth program, initiated by MU's department of health psychology in the School of Health Professions, was part of a study by Laura Schopp, MU wellness program manager and associate professor of health psychology; Brick Johnstone, professor and chair of the department of health psychology; and Stephanie Reid-Arndt, assistant professor of health psychology.
Schopp said the program is good for the patients, clinicians and the specialists. It's good for patients, she said, because they get access to trained professionals in their own community; for rural clinicians, because it extends their expertise; for specialists, because it forges relationships with rural partners to whom specialists could refer patients with confidence.
"There are circumstances where specialist expertise is still needed, but with proper support, the therapists can do most of this," Schopp said.
Schopp said the clinicians were given a pre-test and a post-test, which showed a significant improvement in their knowledge of treating traumatic brain injuries.
The patients were also asked for their opinions.
"The patients were overwhelmingly more confident about therapists involved in the telehealth training," Schopp said.
Reid-Arndt developed a manual for the clinicians that provided information about the areas they should address, problems they might face and the treatment they should provide.
The telehealth program and the study were both funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. "This is a gift that keeps on giving," Schopp said. "Once you have trained a provider, the infrastructure is strengthened."