Transmural palliative care by means of teleconsultation: a window of opportunities and new restrictions

J van Gurp*, Martine van Selm, Evert van Leeuwen, J Hasselaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background
Audio-visual teleconsultation is expected to help home-based palliative patients, hospital-based palliative care professionals, and family physicians to jointly design better, pro-active care. Consensual knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of teleconsultation in transmural palliative care is, however, largely lacking.

This paper aims at describing elements of both the physical workplace and the cultural-social context of the palliative care practice, which are imperative for the use of teleconsultation technologies.

Methods
A semi-structured expert meeting and qualitative, open interviews were deployed to explore professionals’ assumptions and wishes, which are considered to contain latent presumptions about the practice’s physical workplace and latent elements of the cultural-social context, regarding (1) the mediating potential of audio-visual teleconsultation, (2) how the audio-visual teleconsultations will affect medical practice, and (3) the design and usage of the teleconsultation technology. We used a qualitative analysis to investigate how palliative care professionals interpret the teleconsultation package in preparation. The analysis entailed open and axial coding techniques developed in a grounded theory approach.

Results
Respondents assume: 1. teleconsultation will hinder physical proximity, thereby compromising anamnesis and diagnosis of new or acutely ill patients as well as “real contact” with the person behind the patient; 2. teleconsultation will help patients becoming more of a pivotal figure in their own care trajectory; 3. they can use teleconsultation to keep a finger on the pulse; 4. teleconsultations have a healing effect of their own due to offered time and digital attention; 5. teleconsultation to open up an additional “gray” network outside the hierarchical structures of the established chain of transmural palliative care. This network could cause bypassing of caregivers and uncertainty about responsibilities; 6. teleconsultations lead to an extended flow of information which helps palliative care professionals to check the stories of patients and medical specialists.

Conclusions
Professionals assume teleconsultation co-defines a new patient–professional relationship by extending hospital-based caregivers’ perceptions of as well as attention for their patients. At the cost, however, of clinical and personal connectedness. Secondly, a hermeneutics is needed to carefully interpret teleconsultation images. Thirdly, teleconsultations transform caregiving cultures as formerly separated care domains collide, demanding a redefinition of roles and responsibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Volume14
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

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