Transl Behav Med. 2022 Jun 18:ibac044. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibac044. Online ahead of print.
New York City was a "global COVID-19 hotspot" in spring 2020. Many health teams rapidly transitioned to telehealth platforms. Little is known about the experiences of inpatient palliative care services who delivered telehealth services during the pandemic. This study was aimed to explore the experiences of an interdisciplinary palliative care team in meeting the holistic needs of oncology inpatients via telehealth over a 10-week period during the first COVID-19 surge. A targeted sample of interdisciplinary palliative specialists at an urban comprehensive cancer center participated in in-depth interviews that explored participants' experiences delivering physical, psychosocial, and spiritual care via telehealth. An interdisciplinary coding team followed a rigorous thematic text analysis approach and met regularly to reach consensus on emerging themes. Eleven palliative specialists from six disciplines (chaplaincy, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant, and social work) participated. Seventy-three percent reported not receiving telehealth training prior to COVID-19 and 64% were "not at all" or "somewhat comfortable" delivering telepalliative care. Several themes were identified, including the barriers related to telehealth, the impact of telehealth on the quality of relationships with patients, their families, and coworkers, and the changes in perceived self-efficacy of fulfilling job responsibilities. Telehealth use has increased significantly during COVID-19, requiring further evaluation of its utility. Participants reported both positive and negative inpatient telepalliative care experiences associated with various domains of professional functioning, such as communication, relationships with key stakeholders, and self-efficacy. Enhanced telehealth training and support must be improved to sustain the palliative workforce and promote high-quality patient and family care in the future.
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