Medical oncology clinics through videoconferencing: an acceptable telehealth model for rural patients and health workers

Authors


  • Funding: None.

  • Conflict of interest: None.

Sabe Sabesan, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, Townsville, Qld 4814, Australia. Email: sabe_sabesan@health.qld.gov.au

Abstract

Background:  Since 2007, Townsville Cancer Centre (Queensland, Australia) has provided routine and urgent medical oncology services to rural and remote communities through videoconferencing. At remote sites, patients were accompanied by doctors and other health workers. The aim of this study was to describe satisfaction of patients and rural health workers with this model of teleoncology.

Methods:  Between May 2007 and June 2010, 55 videoconferencing patients were invited to participate in a questionnaire-based telephone survey after informed consent. The survey included responses to 16 satisfaction statements using a 5-point Likert scale. Perspectives of health workers involved were recorded using open-ended questions on six themes related to telehealth.

Results:  Among the 50 participating cancer patients, median age was 56 years (range 28–83). Seventy-six per cent of patients thought specialist physical examination was important despite local doctors performing it. Seventy-six per cent of patients felt the presence of accompanying local health workers was not important. Seventy-eight per cent of patients preferred to be seen in Mt Isa for the first consultation through videoconferencing than travelling to Townsville. More than 80% of patients were in agreement with the rest of the satisfaction statements. Ninety-six per cent of patients were in agreement with the question relating to overall satisfaction. Eighteen health workers participated and their responses and attitudes were favourable towards telehealth.

Conclusion:  Satisfaction with this model of care was proven to be high among both patients and health workers. Benefits perceived included effective communication between patients and specialists, reduced travel time and money expenditure, and superior specialist support for rural health workers.

Ancillary