Thriving vs surviving after acquired brain injury- the efficacy of telehealth delivery of a group community rehabilitation program in rural/remote Queensland

Areti Kennedy1, Ben Turner1Stephanie Fletcher1, and Melissa Kendall1

1Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Service, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Metro South Hospital and Health Service, PO Box 6053, Buranda, 4102

Aim

To examine the efficacy of home-based telehealth technology for STEPS Skills Program delivery to adults with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) in rural/remote communities in Queensland.

Since inception in 2008, the STEPS Program- a specialist rehabilitation group program addressing community re-integration following ABI- has developed a strong presence in many regional communities. However, access for adults in rural/remote areas remains a challenge.

Methods

A multi-methods design examined experiences and outcomes for two groups completing the STEPS Skills Program: a control group (n = 8) via usual face-to-face delivery, and an experimental group (n = 5) via telehealth.

Participants completed outcome measures before and after the 6-week program and in-depth semi-structured interviews afterwards.  Non-parametric statistical analyses were used for quantitative data and a case study approach utilising 4-staged thematic analysis for qualitative data.

Results

Control group participants recorded significant improvement over time on Satisfaction with Life Scale.  While improvements were observed over time, no other statistically significant differences were found for either control or telehealth groups.  Interestingly, telehealth participants typically scored higher than control on outcome measures pre and post program. 

Qualitatively, both groups benefited from: shared learning environment, peer support, and peer-professional leadership structure.  All telehealth participants successfully managed the videoconferencing software, which they preferred to teleconferencing.  However, major connectivity issues compromised videoconferencing reliability, impacting on program participation (e.g., hesitancy to contribute to discussions due to fear of dropping out).

Conclusion

This study supports the use of home-based telehealth technologies in STEPS Skills Program delivery.  Improving reliability of connectivity will enhance outcomes over time.

Biography

Areti Kennedy Bachelor of Physiotherapy, Grad Dip Health ScienceWorking in brain injury rehabilitation for the past 19 years, Areti has had several roles at the Acquired Brain Injury Outreach Service (ABIOS), most recently as Skills To Enable Peole and Comunities (STEPS) Program manager. The STEPS Program uses an innovative peer/professional partnership model for group rehabilitation program delivery in local Queensland communities. Areti is passionate about peer/professional partnerships, believing the interplay of lived experience and health expertise provides an environment which enhances shared learning and fosters sustainable, ongoing, relevant, local community participation for adults with acquired brain injury.