Evaluating the Feasibility and Acceptability of a Telehealth Program in a Rural Palliative Care Population: TapCloud for Palliative Care

Lindsay Bonsignore, Nicholas Bloom, Karen Steinhauser, Reginald Nichols, Todd Allen, Martha Twaddle, Janet Bull
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2018, 56 (1): 7-14

CONTEXT: The impact of telehealth and remote patient monitoring has not been well established in palliative care populations in rural communities.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to 1) describe a telehealth palliative care program using the TapCloud remote patient monitoring application and videoconferencing; 2) evaluate the feasibility, usability, and acceptability of a telehealth system in palliative care; and 3) use a quality data assessment collection tool in addition to TapCloud ratings of symptom burden and hospice transitions.

METHODS: A mixed-methods approach was used to assess feasibility, usability, and acceptability. Quantitative assessments included patient symptom burden and improvement, hospice transitions, and advanced directives. Qualitative semistructured interviews on a subpopulation of telehealth patients, caregivers, and providers were performed to learn about their experiences using TapCloud.

RESULTS: One-hundred one palliative care patients in rural Western North Carolina were enrolled in the program. The mean age of patients enrolled was 72 years, with a majority (60%) being female and a pulmonary diagnosis accounting for the largest percentage of patients (23%). Remote patient monitoring using TapCloud resulted in improved symptom management, and patients in the model had a hospice transition rate of 35%. Patients, caregivers, and providers reported overwhelmingly positive experiences with telehealth with three main advantages: 1) access to clinicians, 2) quick responses, and 3) improved efficiency and quality of care.

CONCLUSION: This is one of the first articles to describe a telehealth palliative care program and to demonstrate acceptability, feasibility, and usability as well as describe symptom outcomes and hospice transitions.

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