During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine (TM) emerged as an important mean to reduce risks of transmission, yet delivering the necessary care to patients. Our aim was to evaluate feasibility, characteristics and satisfaction for a TM service based on phone/video consultations for patients with cancer attending an outpatient palliative care clinic during COVID-19 pandemics.
A longitudinal observational study was conducted from April to December 2020. Consecutive patients were screened for video consultations feasibility. Either patients or their caregivers received video/phone consultations registering reason and intervention performed. Those contacted at least twice were eligible for experience of care assessment.
Video consultations were feasible in 282 of 572 screened patients (49%, 95% CI 45% to 52%); 112 patients among the 572 had at least two phone/video consultations and 12 of them had one or more video consultations. Consultations were carried out with patients (56%), caregivers (30%) or both (14%). 63% of the consultations were requested by the patients/caregivers. Reasons for consultation included uncontrolled (66%) or new symptom onset (20%), therapy clarifications (37%) and updates on diagnostic tests (28%). Most interventions were therapy modifications (70%) and appointments’ rescheduling (51%). 49 patients and 19 caregivers were interviewed, reporting good care experience (average of 1–5 satisfaction score of 3.9 and 4.2, respectively). The majority (83% and 84%) declared they would use TM after the pandemics.
Although feasibility is still limited for some patients, TM can be a satisfactory alternative to in-person visits for palliative care patients in need of limiting access to the hospital.