I moved my entire practice online. Here’s what happened
An interview with Tinna Sigurdardottir, founder, CEO and speech therapist at Trappa, an online speech therapy practice in Iceland.
“I’m in a lot more regular contact with the children and more of my time goes directly into helping them.”
Trappa is an Icelandic online speech therapy clinic, founded in 2014. Initially, their only clients were four students living in a remote town in the Westfjords that prior to the online services of Trappa were only able to meet with speech therapy specialists about three times a year. With Trappa’s services, the quality and frequency of their speech therapy sessions improved significantly, and through word of mouth, Trappa began to operate in schools around the country. Today, Trappa services 12% of municipalities in Iceland and uses Kara Connect both as a practice management- and online consultation platform to deliver speech therapy.
We sat down (remotely of course!) with Tinna Sigurðardóttir, founder and CEO of Trappa, to chat about her experiences moving from traditional speech therapy to founding a telehealth model for her service.
Kara: Hi Tinna! Thank you for sitting down to chat with us.
Tinna: Hi! Hang on- we can’t start just yet. My dog is barking in his sleep (laughter). Okay. Now go.
K: Before you started with Trappa, what were you doing?
T: I was a speech therapist for Reykjavík Municipality. I went to preschools and primarily worked with identifying and diagnosing children that needed support. There were some very heavy cases, I was responsible for 14 pre-schools by myself, and I had to prioritise and decide what needed to happen at each of them.
K: Why did you decide to make a change?
T: I wanted to be able to help more children — feel more useful. There was a lot of emphasis on diagnosis. I was diagnosing these kids and referring them to therapy that I knew there was a 2 year waiting list for and I just didn’t feel like I was providing them a service. A big part of it was just calming down parents who were worried, who felt like their child wasn’t getting the needed support and were waiting 2 years for answers at a crucial developmental stage in their child’s life.
K: So what was next?
T: My dream was to open some kind of a walk-in clinic, where people would just come in and have a chat with a speech pathologist. Get immediate consultation at least. I was offered the opportunity to work with telehealth to deliver speech therapy and I just decided to run with it. When it began, I hadn’t seen or read anything on online therapy or telehealth, hadn’t really considered it at all. So it was such a surprise to see how easy the transition was and how effective it could be. I would say I’m much closer to that dream of mine now, just talking to people, creating an easier access to professional help for those in need.
K: So what does Trappa do — how does it work?
T: We offer speech therapy to children and adults, using remote sessions, both through contracts with municipalities and private referrals.
We’re still in the same position as other services in that we do have waiting lists for our private clients — as there simply aren’t enough speech therapists in Iceland to answer the demand. But by working with municipalities, we ensure that the kids in those schools are immediately secured access to therapy for that school year.
K: How does this compare to what you were doing before?
T: This is a completely different job. I’m in a lot more regular contact with the children and more of my time goes directly into helping them. Doing things online means I’m reaching children around the country, without me or them needing to commute, and it’s also saving everyone a lot of time.
K: What about the tech side of things- how have clients responded to that?
T: The technical side has somehow never been an issue. People have been so willing to try it out- and maybe that’s because there was very little else available, especially for those in more remote areas. But I think that in general people quickly see that the quality of the online sessions is just as good as that of in-person sessions and that is the feedback we have been getting from our customer satisfaction surveys.
K: Is it different to engage the kids in the session when you’re behind a screen?
T: As a mother of four, I know that kids have absolutely no issues with staring at a screen (laughter). I was worried about connecting at first, but it doesn’t even cross my mind anymore. Your character and presence still shines through online- just like when we’re talking now! You do have to keep the kid interested, be prepared and have some interesting material to work with of course.
K: How do you feel working online has affected you and your work habits?
I’m a lot more focused and effective. When people come to the office so much more time is spent on getting settled, getting water or going to the bathroom — being online is far less of a hassle. Everyone is comfortable in their environment. Initially I thought I might have to do it 50/50 online and in person, but now I prefer to be online, because it is simply much more efficient.