Virtual Home Visits - Cost-Saving Alternative
The feasibility of using technology to deliver early intervention services is the subject of a paper that appeared in the Winter 2012 edition of The Volta Review, a publication of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Sue Olsen, director of exemplary services, Barb Fiechtl, clinical instructor in the department of special education and rehabilitation and Sarah Rule, professor emeritus in the department of special education and rehabilitation, were invited to submit the article describing the research study. According to Olsen, a two-year Stepping Stones technology grant was used to study the feasibility of using VoIP (voice-over-Internet-protocol) technology to deliver early intervention services to families in the Up to 3 program. Up to 3 serves Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties in northern Utah—an area that covers 7,819 square miles. Using computers, broadband Internet connections, video cameras and microphones, early intervention staff members conducted Virtual Home Visits (VHVs) to provide services. The researchers found that VHVs can lessen the barriers of time, travel and availability of early intervention staff, and require families to have minimal experience with VoIP systems. VHVs resulted in cost savings and increased efficiency because the time not spent in travel could be devoted to interactions with families. The researchers noted, however, that there is some risk associated with using the Internet due to privacy concerns. The research team did not evaluate that risk but said the issue warrants further study. Two other studies by USU researchers were published in this edition of The Volta Review. They are Expanding Use of Telepractice in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology by Marge Edwards and two colleagues, and Telepractice Services at Sound Beginnings at Utah State University by Edwards, Kristina M. Blaiser, Diane Behl and Karen Munoz.