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Factors that Influence the Acceptability of Telemedicine as a means to Evaluate Treatment Outcome for Patients Completing Palliative Radiotherapy

      Purpose

      To determine factors and barriers that may influence the acceptability of telemedicine as a means to evaluate treatment outcome for patients completing palliative radiotherapy.

      Methods

      Adult patients seen in consultation for consideration of palliative radiotherapy were approached for this needs-assessment study, and data related to patient and caregiver demographics, information regarding their use and habits with communication technology, and views regarding follow-up care, as well as the use of telemedicine for post-treatment follow-up, were gathered using a questionnaire. Data examination strategies with logistic regression and summative content analysis for synthesis of emerging themes were used.

      Results

      Majority (90%) of the participants (n=48; 62 were approached from April to August 2013) have access to mobile phones and use the internet at home on a daily basis, and they also communicate with their friends and family regularly using phone, email, and texting. A large proportion of patients (94%) would participate in virtual follow-up post-palliative-radiotherapy if it is available, and would access mainly this service via communication means of electronic mail (46%) and telephone (35%). Patients expressed that continual care by the palliative radiation medicine team should be automatic post-treatment, whether it be on an out-patient basis or via telemedicine. There were no apparent barriers affecting patient participation in virtual follow-up appointments, that is, there was no particular demographic variable that correlates with acceptability of communication technologies and telemedicine.

      Conclusion

      There is currently no standard follow-up process for patients after completion of palliative radiotherapy treatments. Patients and caregivers support the implementation of a follow-up process using telemedicine and would use it as an alternative option to in-hospital appointments. Continuity of care via follow-up is important because it helps to maintain quality of life for these patients and their caregivers, and also increase collection of treatment outcome data for continual quality improvement of palliative radiotherapy practice.