What Is FEES and How Can It Benefit SLP Patients?

There are a number of areas medical speech-language pathologists can specialize in, and the most recent episode of The Missing Link covers one of them: FEES. An acronym for “fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing,” FEES is a procedure that reveals a patient’s ability to swallow. It can prove an extremely beneficial tool in treatment, but not every facility has the equipment to perform FEES.

That’s something The Missing Link guests George Barnes and Allie Boyer are hoping to change. Two FEES specialists who recently opened a mobile unit called FEESible Swallow Solutions, George and Allie believe every medical setting can take advantage of the benefits associated with FEES. 

Unfortunately, not everyone has a thorough understanding of how FEES can be used to improve clinical treatment.

What Are the Benefits of FEES Studies?

During this week’s podcast episode, George and Allie outlined the reasons clinicians may want to look into FEES for their patients. From a treatment standpoint, these swallow studies are a great addition to patient-focused treatment in two ways:

It offers a clear picture of what’s happening: FEES is essentially a moving x-ray detailing what’s happening when a person swallows, showing clinicians what they’d otherwise be guessing about. Using FEES gives providers a clear and correct picture of what’s happening so they can make the best decisions for the patient. 
It’s more convenient for the patient: Not only does FEES allow clinicians to make informed decisions for their patients, but it offers them a more comfortable and convenient means of testing. FEES can be done from the comfort of the patient’s home, and it’s often a more comfortable experience for them. It’s also a great workaround for patients who may be scared to visit a medical testing center because of COVID-19.

How Can You Get FEES in Your Setting?

Of course, becoming a FEES specialist or convincing your current setting to adopt FEES as a regular practice isn’t always easy. Fortunately, George and Allie have compiled a list of steps clinicians can take when advocating for the use of FEES in their facilities. 

Step one: Whether you’re relatively new to your facility or have been there for some time, building relationships is a critical step to advocating for FEES. Attending meetings and support groups and discussing your passions with other professionals in your setting can open the door to have a discussion about implementing FEES. It will also build trust, which may be needed to get them on board with your argument. 

Step two: Once you’ve built relationships, it’s time to accumulate data so you can prove the facility needs FEES. There’s plenty of research to present while pitching the idea, but clinicians can also keep track of the patients they see who could benefit from FEES. Numbers will be an important part of making your point, and they’re often a major factor in administrators’ decision-making. 

Step three: Once you’ve collected your data, it’s time to connect with your director or administrator. Demonstrate how your proposal would benefit their patients in the long run, and provide details about how it could cut costs for the facility. 
Step four: If the people in charge of your facility are relatively on board with your FEES proposal, try scheduling a mobile FEES service. This will give your colleagues the opportunity to experience the benefits of FEES firsthand, and it will give you another chance to prove how beneficial it is.

It’s All About the Patient

When it comes to advocating for FEES studies in your facility, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: You’re advocating for the patient. At the end of the day, everyone in your setting should be looking to do right by the people they’re treating. If you can demonstrate how FEES plays into that, it will be exponentially easier to build support — especially if you have numbers on hand.

Want to learn more about George and Allie and their journey to becoming SLPs, private practice owners, and FEES specialists? Listen to them and Mattie chat on The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast.

Did you know Mattie provides coaching to SLPs? Learn more here.

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