The University of Queensland in Australia is doubling down on its use of telehealth to treat aphasia, a disorder resulting from damage to portions of the brain responsible for language. Stroke is the most common cause of aphasia, followed by head trauma and neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. The university is expanding its Comprehensive High-Dose Aphasia Treatment (CHAT) program, which offers remote therapy delivered by speech pathologists who are supported by aphasia researchers.
The program is expanding from one public health facility near the city of Brisbane to seven hospitals and healthcare sites across the state of Queensland. It’s a place where telehealth services are sorely needed. While Brisbane is the third most populous city in Australia, around 38% of Queensland residents live in rural and remote areas. University researcher Professor David Copland says, “An online equivalent of the CHAT program (TeleCHAT) will also be available as an option for people to participate in their homes, [increasing] accessibility for those in rural and regional areas.”
University of Queensland researcher Dr. Jade Dignam says of the CHAT program’s success thus far, “Importantly, what we found was significant improvements across a number of different measures…. We found significant improvements on language impairment measures looking at the comprehensive aphasia test, we also found significant improvements in functional communication as well as communication related quality of life as well as an improvement in communication confidence.”
A program such as this could meet a significant need in the United States. While aphasia affects over 140,000 Australians, around 1 million Americans have aphasia, according to the National Aphasia Association (NAA). And about 180,000 people in the United States get aphasia each year. However, there is alarmingly low awareness of aphasia. NAA statistics show that 84.5% of people have never heard of aphasia, and only 8.8% of people have heard of aphasia and can identify it as a language disorder.