Adapting to a brave new world. Telehealth in palliative care

We’ve certainly had a change in our practice of palliative care with technological developments and more recently, change has been accelerated by the pandemic.

This fascinating work by Palliverse’s very own Dr Anna Collins and teams at St Vincent’s Hospital, North Adelaide Palliative Care Service and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre really accurately described what it’s been like for me working as a palliative care physician using telehealth. It’s been terrific for some aspects – we can quickly review the patient without having to drag them into hospital, preserving their energy and disrupting their lives less. However, I really struggle when patients are deteriorating and when they speak languages other than English as their first language.

Their research found that “palliative care patients and doctors at each site found telehealth wasn’t only acceptable (91 per cent and 86 per cent respectively) but also satisfactory (72 per cent and 65 per cent) in most situations.”

In their studies, “involving interviews and surveys of 130 palliative care patients and their doctors following a telehealth appointment, patients in rural and regional area reported telehealth as being highly satisfactory. Doctors too rated it highly satisfactory when a visual link (not just audio) was used, or if the appointment was for a routine review.

“However, patients were less satisfied when care goals or future planning were discussed, and doctors reported it as being less satisfactory when the patient’s condition was changing or rapidly worsening, or if patients spoke a language other than English.

“And both patients and doctors found telehealth unsatisfactory in the presence of changing or unstable symptoms, such as pain which required medication adjustment or change.

image of older patient speaking with a doctor on an iPad screen
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Safer Care Victoria and the Palliative Care Clinical Network hosted a webinar ‘Clinical Conversation Webinar: Adapting to a Brave New World – the role of Virtual/Telehealth in Palliative Care’

The webinar recording is now available on the Safer Care Victoria Clinical Conversation Webinar Series website.  


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