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How can technology be used to support communication in palliative care beyond the COVID-19 pandemic?

Project: Research


Background Developments in digital health have the potential to transform the delivery of health and social care by creating new opportunities for healthcare professionals to deliver care. For example, during the COVID19 pandemic, palliative care services have used digital health to support communication with staff, patients and caregivers. However, there is limited data on staff perspectives of using digital health for communication during the pandemic, which limits our ability to learn how digital health tools can be used beyond the pandemic to support palliative care communication in clinical practice.

Methods We developed an electronic questionnaire (requiring multiple choice and free text responses), for UK based palliative care healthcare professionals, to identify how they have used digital health to support communication in clinical care during the COVID19 pandemic. We circulated the questionnaire through professional networks and through social media. The questions involved: (1) communication within the multidisciplinary team (MDT), (2) education and (3) to support communication with patients and carers. We used thematic analysis to analyse free text responses and identify themes.

Layperson's description

The aim of this research is to conduct a nationwide survey of healthcare professionals to identify how technology has been used to support communication in palliative care during the COVID19 pandemic. The survey will focus on themes and areas for development arising from a literature review. This project looks to identify learning beyond the pandemic, identifying knowledge and skills required to support healthcare professionals to adopt technology to support communication.
This research will look to develop our own service and the re-structure of day therapy by looking to include how we can use digital technology in palliative care. This will then lead to a public engagement showcase at Marie Curie Hospice Liverpool which will aim to mutually explore (between healthcare professionals and the local community) how we can better use technology to improve palliative care services. In addition to this, the project looks to develop national recommendations for organizations in effectively using technology to improve palliative care services.

Key findings

Results Two hundred and thirty-four palliative care professionals participated. Most (n= 227, 97%) had increased their use of digital health, to support communication, since the pandemic started. We identified benefits and challenges for digital health communication, which we summarised into themes to identify facilitators and barriers for future use of this technology in clinical practice.

Conclusion Since the pandemic, palliative care professionals described increased use of digital health to support communication. We have identified facilitators and barriers for future practice. We believe that work should identify support to enable organisations to implement the models of care needed to improve access and quality of palliative care services.

This work was supported by the Marie Curie Internal Small Research Grant Scheme [Grant number MCSGS-20-302]. £14,110.10, awarded August 2020.
Effective start/end date1/01/2130/06/21