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Studies have shown that initiating early palliative care of patients with end-stage cancer can improve their quality of life and decrease symptoms of depression. The challenge is to find an effective way to care for these patients while minimizing the burden on healthcare resources. Telemedicine can play a vital role in solving this problem.
A user-friendly telemedical device enabling patients encountering medical problems to send a direct request to a palliative care team was developed. A controlled feasibility study was conducted by assigning 15 patients with advanced cancer and their family caregivers to receive either standard palliative care or telemedically augmented palliative care. Th quality of life (QoL) was assessed using standardized validated questionnaires as well as frequency and duration of hospital admissions and user satisfaction. The primary goal of this study was to increase the QoL of patients and their family caregivers. The secondary goal of this study was to decrease the frequency and duration of hospital admissions.
This study showed a good feasibility despite the low overall willingness to participate in a relatively “technical” trial. The hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS) was significantly lower in the intervention group, suggesting an improved quality of life. Although a decrease in the number of hospital admissions could not be shown, the user satisfaction was very good.
Telemedicine could be a useful tool to enhance the general well-being of palliative oncology patients. Now that the feasibility of this approach has been confirmed, larger studies are needed to verify its positive impact on the QoL.