Mobile phone initiative improves speech therapy uptake
MedWire News: A mobile phone initiative has helped to improve the uptake of speech therapy in patients undergoing primary cleft palate repair in Cambodia, show study findings.
"Volunteering surgical teams have had success in performing cleft palate repairs in the developing world: however integrated, multidisciplinary post-operative follow-up remains absent," explain study author Daniel Butler from Kien Khleang National Rehabilitation Center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and colleagues.
They add that in 2008 a local Cambodian speech and language therapist was trained and employed by the Children's Surgical Centre in Cambodia, but despite this promising development, uptake of speech therapy following cleft palate repair remains low.
Writing in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Butler et al describe the impact of a charity-funded program called "SmilePhone" designed to improve uptake of speech therapy services in cleft palate repair patients between September 2010 and February 2011.
The intervention involved issuing a mobile phone to 22 patients out of 36 who underwent a primary cleft palate repair. There was no significant difference in gender distribution, age at surgery, distance from surgical center, and proportion of patients with associated cleft lip.
The researchers report that significantly more patients issued with mobile phones returned for speech therapy within 6 months of their surgery than those who were not, at 73% versus 21%.
In a previous study in which no mobile phones were issued only 53 (35.3%) of 150 patients returned for speech therapy after surgery.
"Issuing a mobile telephone upon discharge may serve to enhance compliance with speech language therapy (SLT) follow-up after cleft surgery in the developing world," say Butler and co-authors.
"This is likely to be a result of a number of factors. Firstly, these patients had close contact with the SLT team prior to discharge and were likely to have received additional education on the importance of follow-up, although this is hard to substantiate... Secondly, the mobile telephone allowed contact with these patients following discharge to ensure compliance with follow-up plans."
The researchers emphasize that the success of such an intervention must be weighed up against the financial resources available to clinics involved in carrying out cleft palate surgery in resource-poor areas.
They suggest that more weight should be placed on adequate education of patients about the importance of speech therapy while they are in hospital for their surgery.
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By Helen Albert