Feasibility, acceptability and needs in telemedicine for palliative care

Authors

Ebneter AS, Sauter TC, Christen A, Eychmueller S.

Abstract

Background

Telemedicine in palliative care was initially developed in countries where geography or resources limit access to care services. Recently, largely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is being increasingly used in highly urbanised countries such as Switzerland. However, there is still scepticism regarding whether these tools can be used effectively in palliative care, a relationship-based speciality that is generally highly dependent on compassion, communication and direct human interaction. The objective of this review was to analyse the needs, elements of feasibility, and reasons for acceptance or possible barriers before the implementation of a telemedicine intervention in Switzerland.

Methods

The method used was a scoping review, following the PRISMA-ScR reporting guidelines. We searched the PubMed, Ovid SP, Medline, Cochrane and Scopus databases for relevant reports. Charting and analyses of the data were done by a single researcher. A total of 520 records were screened and assessed for eligibility. Finally, 27 studies and 4 registry entries were included. Main reasons for exclusion were wrong population and intervention.

Results

The prevailing study type was the single-arm intervention study. Most studies originated from countries with geographic barriers to access. Feasibility was good in 69% of all studies. Good acceptability (84.1-100%) was confirmed in the majority of the studies. The needs of the patients or the healthcare professionals were directly addressed in only five (16%) studies. Three needs were consistently reported: communication, coordination and technical reliability.

Conclusion

Despite a broad range of studies on telemedicine in palliative care, patients' needs are rarely addressed. Therefore, especially in countries such as Switzerland, a needs assessment is recommended before the implementation of a new telemedicine intervention, to guarantee high feasibility and acceptability.