The role of telemedicine in auditory rehabilitation: a systematic review.
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OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of live telemedicine applications in hearing amplification and cochlear implantation. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION: A systematic search was performed in PubMed, MEDLINE, PsychINFO, CINALH, and Web of Science to identify peer-reviewed research. Inclusion criteria were titles containing words from the search terms 1) audiology, otolaryngology, and hearing impairment, 2) rehabilitative methods, and 3) telemedicine. Exclusion criteria were: 1) non-English articles, and 2) non-original research. DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS: Twelve eligible studies were identified. The studies employed a prospective design in nine of the articles and retrospective case series in three. The use of telemedicine for the provision of cochlear implant services was examined in eight of the articles and with hearing aids in four of the articles. The types of services include intraoperative cochlear implant telemetry; implant programming and assessment of electrode-specific measures and speech recognition after implantation. Hearing aid programming and remote gain assessments were also reported. Many studies assess patient and provider satisfaction along with encounter time comparison. The studies occurred from 2009 to 2014 and took place in seven countries. CONCLUSIONS: This review examined the feasibility of remote telemedicine connection to provide in auditory rehabilitation services through hearing aids and cochlear implants. There are significant concerns regarding Internet bandwidth limitations for remote clinics. There is a paucity of research examining reimbursement and cost-effectiveness for services. Further prospective research investigating cost-effectiveness and bandwidth limitations is warranted to assess long-term sustainability of remote audiological rehabilitative service delivery.
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