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Virtual Care and Comfort: How Telehospice Helps Patients and Caregivers

Considered the model for quality compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness, hospice provides expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).   Hospice focuses on caring, not curing. In most cases, care is provided in the patient’s home but may also be provided in freestanding hospice facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Hospice services are available to patients with any terminal illness or of any age, religion, or race.  Support is provided to the patient’s family as well.

Home telehospice provides many of the hospice services delivered in patients’ homes through video, email and secure messaging. By using virtual care technology, nurses (along with the broader hospice care team) can significantly enhance their communications and contact level with their patients and the patients’ caregivers.  Virtual care can deliver many benefits including a quicker assessment of patients, faster ability for timely interventions, and greater teaching opportunities for family caregivers.

With a virtual care communication platform, nurses have new opportunities to connect with patients and family caregivers. For example, nurses can encourage the use of video-based virtual visits and HIPAA-compliant messaging to educate typically underserved populations in hospice (such as African Americans, Asian Americans, and rural communities) about the availability of convenient access to hospice care.  The use of a virtual care platform enables agencies to connect with patients who are not typically seen in hospice.   

Timely instructions can be provided to family caregivers, helping them relieve a patient’s discomfort and agency staff can avoid making a late-night of afterhours in-person visit.  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.  Remote family members can also be incorporated in the video calls.  Thus, compassionate care and comfort is delivered to both the patient and his/her loved ones through the virtual care platform.    

As the National Institute on Aging highlights, hospice care brings together a team of people with special skills—among them nurses, doctors, social workers, spiritual advisors, and trained volunteers. Everyone works together with the person who is dying, the caregiver, and/or the family to provide the medical, emotional, and spiritual support needed.  A virtual care platform can ensure that a member of the hospice team is readily available to provide verbal and visual support at all times for the patient and the family caregivers.

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