Is Telemedicine the Future of Palliative Care?

The experience of hospitals with significant surges of severely ill COVID-infected patients has indirectly stimulated the discussion on the need for palliative care, but also how to organize it in case of a pandemic (or in the future).
“There wasn’t a cure for COVID, and we had only minimally effective treatments. But with palliative care we can always ensure human connection and relieve suffering. Now everyone understands it better than before,” said Diane Meier, MD, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mount Sinai in New York City. While studies have shown that palliative care improves quality of life and reduces caregiver burden, not everyone can access it, “partly because we don’t have enough clinicians, services, and programs — especially for people outside of the hospital who are seriously ill but not hospice-eligible,” she said.
Enter telemedicine, which can dramatically increase access for people in community settings, at home, in assisted living facilities, in long-term care, Meier said. One clinician can see 8 to 10 seriously ill patients a day at multiple sites without leaving the office — exponentially increasing access.
It’s not only more efficient for the clinician, it expands access for patients who can get to the clinic only with difficulty because they are homebound, live miles away or constrained by geographical barriers, or depend on public transit.
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