This month we spend five minutes with Dr Rachael Rietdijk, Speech Pathologist and Project Manager on The Social Brain Toolkit.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. I am a speech pathologist and postdoctoral research fellow currently working as the project manager on The Social Brain Toolkit project, supported by the icare foundation. This project involves working as part of our team in the University of Sydney Acquired Brain Injury Communication Lab, headed up by Professor Leanne Togher. The Social Brain Toolkit will be a suite of resources designed to support communication and connection after a brain injury. We are currently developing and piloting the resources in preparation towards a launch in 2022
How do you define digital health? Digital health is a very broad and evolving area, as I am sure readers of this newsletter are aware! My research specifically has focussed on telehealth (delivery of speech pathology services at a distance using technology), and I am interested in all aspects of this – including how technology can be used to increase service access, to gather data, to promote learning, to support engagement and to build motivation.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed? One important step is to bring the people who will ultimately use the innovation on the journey with you. In our project this year, it has been great to work with people with brain injury, their family members and clinicians in our project advisory committee and as participants in our pilot studies. They have been instrumental in guiding the project by telling us what resources they need, and what they like and what they didn’t like about the initial versions of the resources we developed. For an innovation to succeed, it must meet the needs of the people who will be using it.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing digital health at the moment? The year 2020 has seen huge uptake in use of digital health. However, many of us are also approaching the end of the year with a growing sense of “Zoom fatigue”! And so, I think a challenge is the sustainability of digital health innovations over the long term. This year has particularly shown us the real value of personal, human connection – and this has implications for how we design and implement digital health innovations.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about? After a brain injury, people may have aphasia (difficulty using language) or cognitive communication impairments. Communication impairments affect a person’s ability to access and participate in healthcare. The Centre of Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation (https://www.latrobe.edu.au/research/centres/health/aphasia) based at La Trobe University keeps a repository of resources about supporting people with communication impairments (https://www.latrobe.edu.au/research/centres/health/aphasia/resources), which could be helpful for researchers and clinicians working in digital health.
The NeuroRehab Evidence Resource (https://neurorehab-evidence.com) and SpeechBITE websites (https://speechbite.com/) are also key resources for searching published research literature in the areas of neurorehabilitation and speech pathology – you can use search filters such as “Distance”, “Computers and Technology” to find evidence for digital health interventions in these areas.
Connect with Rachael
Our research group on Twitter: @ABICommLab
A very big thank you to Rachael for being our November feature!