Experiences with Telehealth for Outpatient Palliative Care

Findings from a Mixed-Methods Study of Patients and Providers Across the United States

Published in: Journal of Palliative Medicine, Volume 25, No. 7, pages 1079–1087 (July 2022). doi: 10.1089/jpm.2021.0545

Posted on RAND.org on October 25, 2022

by Julia Bandini, Adam Scherling, Carrie M. Farmer, Michael Fratkin, Brian Mistler, Katherine Ast, Sangeeta C. Ahluwalia

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Background

The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a rapid adoption and scale-up of telehealth for palliative care services in the United Sates.

Objectives

To examine and compare in-person versus telehealth experience among outpatient palliative care programs and patients.

Design

Mixed-methods study (1) comparing patient experience survey data received between September 2020 and February 2021 from patients who received only in-person care versus those who received only telehealth and (2) qualitative interviews with outpatient palliative care providers. Data for this study were collected as part of a larger effort to develop quality measures for outpatient palliative care in the United States.

Setting/Subjects

Outpatient palliative care patients and programs.

Measurements

We measured patients' experiences of "feeling heard and understood" by their palliative care provider and team and their overall rating of their provider and team. We also conducted in-depth semistructured interviews with 47 palliative care providers across 25 outpatient palliative care programs.

Results

Of 1,753 patient experience surveys, 26% reflected telehealth only versus 74% in-person only. Patients in both groups reported highly positive experiences; there were no differences in "feeling heard and understood" or the overall ratings of the provider and team between the telehealth-only and in-person-only groups. Palliative care program leaders described the benefits and challenges of telehealth, including increased efficiency, the ability to incorporate family members, and challenges conducting a physical examination.

Conclusion

Data from this study provide preliminary evidence of overall positive experiences of telehealth for outpatient palliative care among patients and providers; future research is needed to examine the sustainability of telehealth for palliative care.

Research conducted by

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