A pilot randomized controlled trial comparing online versus face-to-face delivery of an aphasia communication partner training program for student healthcare professionals.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International journal of language & communication disorders, 2020, 55, (6), pp. 852-866
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Training conversation partners of people with aphasia who use facilitative communication strategies is one method that can improve access to healthcare for people with aphasia. However, the efficacy of communication partner training (CPT) has been investigated almost exclusively in the context of face-to-face (F2F) delivery. Online training may offer more cost-effective and accessible options to a wider range of conversation partners, including student healthcare professionals.


To conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial with student healthcare professionals comparing (1) an online aphasia CPT program, (2) a F2F CPT program and (3) no program (control group) on outcomes relating to attitudes and knowledge of aphasia.

Methods & procedures

A 45-min introductory aphasia CPT program was developed using the theories and techniques of Supported Conversations for Adults with Aphasia (SCA)™. A total of 30 first-year undergraduates studying occupational therapy at The University of Sydney were randomly allocated to one of three conditions: online CPT delivery, F2F delivery or delayed training control (no program). Outcomes measures included pre-post-testing with the Aphasia Attitudes, Strategies and Knowledge (AASK) survey.

Outcomes & results

A significant difference existed for the AASK survey pre-post-change scores between the online, F2F and control groups (χ2 (2) = 20.038, p = 0.000). Post-hoc analysis revealed that, compared with the control (Ctrl) group, participants in both the online and F2F groups had significantly higher knowledge of aphasia (Online versus Ctrl: p = 0.000; F2F versus control: p = 0.002), knowledge of facilitative strategies (Online versus Ctrl: p = 0.000; F2F versus Ctrl: p = 0.002), and positive attitudes towards aphasia (Online versus Ctrl: p = 0.031; F2F versus Ctrl: p = 0.032). No significant difference was observed between the online and F2F groups for the Total or any subtotals (p = 1.000).

Conclusions and implications

The results from this pilot randomized controlled trial indicate that online delivery of the 45-min introductory CPT is equally as efficacious as F2F delivery, and thus may be a viable mode of delivery for future aphasia CPT programs. These pilot results pave the way for a larger study that will comprehensively evaluate the efficacy of an online aphasia CPT program for improving attitudes, knowledge and skills in a broad range of student healthcare professionals. What this paper adds What is already known on this subject The efficacy of F2F CPT for aphasia is well established. Online delivery of CPT programs may offer more cost-effective and accessible services when compared with F2F approaches; however, there is a need to explore the efficacy of online programs. What this paper adds to existing knowledge The 45-min online aphasia CPT program was found to be efficacious for improving student healthcare professionals' knowledge and attitudes towards aphasia and communication, and produced equally successful outcomes when compared with F2F delivery. This is the first study to report the efficacy of an online CPT program that is aligned with SCA for use with student healthcare professionals that also uses a self-report outcome measure with validated psychometric properties. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? Online CPT programs may be useful in both clinical and education contexts to support improved efficiency of services and to enhance communication environments for people with aphasia in healthcare contexts.
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