The Opportunity for Telehealth in Palliative and Hospice Care

Importance of Palliative and Hospice Care

Hospice and palliative care programs across the country are reaching out to raise awareness about the National Hospice and Palliative Care Month this month. “It’s About How You Live” is the theme for November 2020.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization highlights the similarities and differences between hospice and palliative care:

  • Hospice and palliative care programs provide pain management, symptom control, psychosocial support and spiritual care to patients and their families when a cure is not possible. These programs combine the highest level of quality medical care with the emotional and spiritual support that families need most when facing a serious illness or the end of life.
  • Hospice helps patients and families focus on living as fully as possible despite a life-limiting illness. Palliative care brings this holistic model of care to people earlier in the course of a serious illness.

Role of Telehealth in Providing Palliative and Hospice Care

A telehealth platform is critical to palliative care as the communications help address patients’ changing needs while providing emotional support to patients and caregivers.  Virtual visits help the palliative nurse observe symptom escalation and functional decline in real-time and make appropriate changes to the plan of care.  Multiple participants can be included in the virtual visits such as the patient’s provider, specialists, nearby and distant family members, etc.  On-demand access (via secure messaging, text/email, and video) also helps family caregivers when they experience problems in caring for the patient and need direction on what they should do.

With virtual care technology, hospice providers can conduct quicker assessments of patients, facilitate more timely interventions, and provide better teaching opportunities for family caregivers.  Timely instruction helps on-hand family caregivers manage pain symptoms and relieve a loved one’s discomfort.

In these situations, family caregiver anxiety is also alleviated as they are virtually shown how to provide the right kind of care and support during a challenging time.  And, unscheduled trips (especially afterhours or on weekends) and the caregivers’ reliance on visiting the ER for answers can be minimized.

Optimizing the Timing and Availability of Care

The use of a virtual care platform also optimizes available resources – especially in communities with a shortage of trained specialists and/or rural areas where clinicians have great distances to cover in reaching patients. The technology enables providers to care for more patients, increasing access to palliative and hospice services.

Remote palliative and hospice care can be crucial to helping patients and family members receive compassionate care at the most critical times.  A virtual care platform can ensure that a care team member is readily available to provide verbal and visual support at all times for the patient and the family caregiver.

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