Jiang B, Bills M, Poon P.
This study assessed the feasibility of integrating telehealth-assisted home-based specialist palliative care (TH-SPC) into a rural community setting.
This was a prospective mixed-methods pilot study conducted in rural Victoria, Australia. Newly engaged adult patients and their caregivers of a community palliative-care service received video consultations with metropolitan-located specialist palliative-care physicians, alongside standard care. Those eligible patients who failed to receive TH-SPC were treated as a control group upon analysis. Data were collected over three months and at 30 days prior to death. Feasibility outcomes included efficiency of process, user satisfaction, clinical outcome and health-care metrics.
A total of 21 patients completed the study, with an average age of 70.4 years and an average survival of 5.8 months. Fourteen patients received TH-SPC, and seven received standard care alone. Patient-caregiver feedback for TH-SPC showed a high level of overall satisfaction. Compared to standard care, the TH-SPC group demonstrated less functional decline from baseline at two weeks (Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Status: -1.35 vs. -12.30, p = 0.067) and three months (8.48 vs. -10.79, p = 0.04) after the intervention. At 30 days prior to death, functional status remained better in the TH-SPC group, with fewer per capita community palliative-care nursing visits (5.46 vs. 9.32, effect size = 0.7), general practitioner visits (0.13 vs. 3.88, effect size = 1.34) and hospital admissions (0.02 vs. 0.2, effect size = 0.65).
TH-SPC was successfully integrated into rural community-based palliative care, with potential benefits in performance status preservation and health-care resource utilisation.