Telehospice: Using Telecommunication Technology for Terminally Ill Patients

Authors

  • Pamela Whitten,

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor of Telecommunication at Michigan State University. She was formerly Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her work has appeared in Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, Telemedicine Journal, The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care, Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, Science Communication, and Geriatrician:Journal of the American Society on Aging.
      Address: 409 Communication Arts Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212.
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  • Gary Doolittle MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Medical Director. Center for TeleMedicine & TeleHealth. University of Kansas Medical Center.
      Address: University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, KS 66160-7171.
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  • Seth Hellmich MA

    Corresponding author
    1. Graduate student and research assistant in the Department of Telecommunication at Michigan State University.
      Address: 402 Communication Arts Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212.
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Address: 409 Communication Arts Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212.

Address: University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard, Kansas City, KS 66160-7171.

Address: 402 Communication Arts Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212.

Abstract

In 2000, a bi-state telehospice project was launched in Michigan and Kansas, designed to provide end-of-life services to hospice patients and their caregivers. Videophones were placed in the homes of hospice patients and hospice providers used this technology to supplement traditional care. This paper presents preliminary results from the first of this two-year project. Methods: Hospice providers (nurses and social workers) completed pre-perception surveys. Hospice patients/caregivers participated in open-ended telephone interviews. Patients choosing not to receive the service completed a decline survey to document the reasons for their decision. Finally, activity logs and patient charts yielded utilization data. Results: Hospice providers are cautiously enthusiastic about telehospice, but initially skeptical about the comparable quality with traditional visits. Patients and caregivers using telehospice, on the other hand, are uniformly positive about the service and wish to see increased utilization within their own care plans. Utilization data indicate steady use with decline forms reflecting some patients' hesitancy in receiving the service in the first place due to feeling overwhelmed.

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