How Outpatient Palliative Care Teleconsultation Facilitates Empathic Patient-Professional Relationships: A Qualitative Study

J van Gurp, Martine van Selm, K Vissers, E van Leeuwen, J Hasselaar

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The problems and needs of advanced cancer patients and proxies normally increase as the disease progresses. Home-based advanced cancer patients and their proxies benefit from collaborations between primary care physicians and hospital-based palliative care specialists when confronted with complex problems in the last phase of life. Telemedicine might facilitate direct, patient-centered communication between patients and proxies, primary care
physicians, and specialist palliative care teams (SPCTs). This study focuses on the impact of teleconsultation technologies on the relationships between home-based palliative care patients and hospital-based palliative care specialists.
This work consists of a qualitative study among patients, family members, and caregivers that utilizes long-term direct observations, semi-structured interviews, and open interviews following the observations.
The analysis of the empirical data resulted in three key concepts that describe the impact of teleconsultation on the patient-professional relationship in palliative homecare: transcending the institutional walls of home and hospital; transparency of teleconsultation technology; and technologized, intimate patient-professional relationships. Teleconsultation offers (1) condensed encounters between home-based palliative care patients and distant
professionals, (2) a unique insight into the patients’ daily lives for palliative care specialists, and (3) long-term interaction that results in trustful relationships and experiences of intimacy and relief.
Teleconsultation fits the practice of home-based palliative care. Teleconsultation can, if well applied, facilitate computer-mediated but empathic patient-palliative care specialist relationships, which enable professional care attuned to the patient’s context as well as patient involvement. This article proposes a teleconsultation implementation guide for optimal use of teleconsultation in daily palliative care practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes

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