By Aparna Kumar, student of the Master in Clinical Audiology and Hearing Therapy

Abstract

Introduction: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a growing need for telehealth services, including tele-audiology. Tele-audiology provides opportunities for patients with geographical or equitable barriers, mobility, or financial issues, to receive care that they would otherwise not be able to. Despite an increase of tele-audiology services, only a few countries offer professional guidance.

Objective: In this article, we provide an analysis of existing tele-audiology guidelines, identifying areas in which they share agreement or disagreement. This analysis will allow for future recommendations to be developed, as well as to identify potential areas of improvement in existing guidelines.

Materials and methods: To provide a comprehensive comparison of available tele-audiology guidelines, a qualitative comparative analysis was conducted. Guidelines were selected to ensure they represent different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and fit the inclusion criteria of the study. After analysing 10 guidelines, five were included in the final analysis: Australia, Britain, India, Malaysia and the USA. Points of convergence and disagreement were identified among three themes: practice operation, clinical guidance, and technical operation. Recommendations for future iterations and development of tele-audiology guidelines were offered from this analysis.

Results: Convergent criteria identified in practice operation included: patient and practitioner site candidacy, use of multidisciplinary teams, and data privacy and protection. In clinical guidance: informed consent, patient eligibility, professional and quality standards of care, practice policy, patient and family-centred care, and limitations to tele-audiology. All criteria in technical operations had convergence. Criteria with disagreement in practice operation included administrative aspects and insurance guidance. For clinical guidance, the only disagreement present was for malpractice and misconduct.

Conclusion: Notable consensus among guidelines was observed, however continuous evaluation and reiteration of these documents are recommended. Cultural and diversity influences should also be evaluated by each country. Additionally, guidelines should consider providing protocols on handling emergency medical or non-medical situations during a tele-audiology consultation, and requiring professional training and certification for providing these services. These recommendations will help to strengthen the growing need of tele-audiology guidelines, and therefore also encourage practitioners to adopt these services in their everyday practice to promote equitable access to care.

Keywordstele-audiology, guidelines, telecommunication, clinical audiology, technology, remote care.

Download the full Research Work: Kumar, A. (2024). Critical Comparative Analysis of International Tele-Audiology Guidelines. SAERA

 

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