There is evidence for the overall safety and efficiency of extended-scope speech-language pathology (SLP) clinics in managing low-risk ear nose and throat (ENT) outpatient referrals, but none of that evidence has been based on long-term data – until now. There has just been published a 5-year audit of clinical outcomes in SLP-led dysphagia and dysphonia services within an Integrated Specialist ENT Service (Schwarz M, et al., Int J Speech Lang Pathol. 2022 Feb;24(1):3-11. doi: 10.1080/17549507.2021.1916592).
This was a retrospective audit of all patients referred with non-urgent dysphonia and/or dysphagia symptoms over a 5-year period since establishment of an SLP AHP service in Queensland, Australia. Clinical outcomes, with rates and reasons for re-referral to the specialist ENT waiting list were investigated.
Of 616 patient referrals, 462 patients were seen by the SLP AHP service. Most (72%, n = 333) received all required management through the clinical model, with only 28% (n = 129) requiring additional ENT intervention, consistent with previously published data. Only 36 of the 616 (6%) were re-referred or re-presented within 12 months of first presentation, of which only 12 were referred for the same condition as in the initial referral. No adverse outcomes were recorded on the clinical database during this 5-year period.
It does indeed appear that an SLP AHP service is a safe and efficient method for managing low risk ENT outpatient referrals.
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