Using virtual care to enhance palliative care experiences

Using virtual care to enhance palliative care experiences

An article written by Maaike Allard, Project Officer Virtual Care, NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation

In palliative care, ensuring comfort and support is crucial. Virtual care emerges as a vital tool, fostering connections between patients, families, and healthcare providers remotely. This innovative approach allows individuals to engage with their palliative care team conveniently through technology, shaping their care plan according to their preferences. Through virtual consultations, patients can receive the same level of empathetic support and expert guidance, irrespective of physical distance. Discover how virtual care is helping patients, families and carers to feel supported during palliative care; and the flexibility and collaboration it offers to clinical teams.

The NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) continues to develop resources to educate and support health professionals and consumers to access and use virtual care in palliative care.

"Virtual care can enable a supportive, person-centred and empathetic approach during end-of-life care,” says Vanessa Evans, Manager of the ACI's End of Life and Palliative Care Network. “The focus is on building the knowledge, skills and confidence of clinicians to promote a quality virtual care experience, close to home.”

Greg and Teresa, who share their story in this video, are grateful they could use virtual care while caring for their son, Travis, who was diagnosed with MECP2 duplication syndrome. The family cherishes the flexibility virtual care gave them throughout his life, and the support received from the palliative care team in the final days before he died at the age of 19.

"Having that support from the palliative care team the day Travis died was amazing. They went above and beyond what anyone could expect.” Says Teresa, mother of Travis.

Greg says one of the greatest benefits was the flexibility to access appointments and support anywhere. "We used virtual care on holidays. We gave Travis every adventure we could," he says.

Jim and Wendy also generously shared their experiences using virtual care from the time Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019 until he passed away last year. Travelling to medical appointments up to an hour away was difficult given Jim's severe pain, so his palliative care team introduced virtual care. "It's just as effective I find; you still have a conversation and it's an in-person view rather than over the phone. And it frees up so much time during the day." said Wendy at the time of filming. Watch in this video.

Resources for consumers

To help consumers understand their choices when it comes to virtual palliative care, two new animated videos explain how Virtual care can support patients. One gives advice to young people, their parents, and carers, while the other supports parents of children who require end-of-life and palliative care. Both videos have also been translated into AUSLAN, Arabic, Vietnamese, Hindi and Simplified Chinese.

Supporting flexibility and collaboration among clinicians

Clinicians also benefit from the flexibility of virtual care. For Belinda, a Palliative Care Nurse from the Port Stephens Palliative Care Service, it helps her small team spend more time providing quality care. “You can do a thorough assessment [using virtual care] and it helps to accommodate our workload.”

“Virtual care is a true enabler to integrated care, supporting care providers and family members to attend appointments together,” says Donna Parkes, ACI's Virtual Care Stream Manager.

Virtual care also allows clinicians to collaborate across health services and geographical boundaries to request advice. “It extends clinical scope and opportunities to be involved in complex cases," adds Donna. "Remote patient monitoring may also add benefits for end of life and palliative care. We look forward to exploring this further with consumers, carers and clinical teams.”

For clinicians and services keen to learn more about implementing virtual care in palliative care, a case study from the Southern NSW Palliative Care Service shares insights into how the service successfully uses virtual care to support palliative care patients in their homes, residential care facilities and hospital settings with no dedicated inpatient beds or staffing. [1]

Learn more about virtual care resources for palliative care.

 

Author


Maaike Allard

Project Officer Virtual Care

NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation

 

 

Reference

1. NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation. Virtual care extends access to palliative care services - An initiative of Southern NSW Local Health District (260 KB pdf). Sydney: ACI; 2023

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The views and opinions expressed in Palliative Perspectives are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.