How outpatient palliative care teleconsultation facilitates empathic patient-professional relationships: a qualitative study

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 22;10(4):e0124387. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124387. eCollection 2015.


Objective: The problems and needs of advanced cancer patients and proxies normally increase as the disease progresses. Home-based advanced cancer patients and their proxies benefit from collaborations between primary care physicians and hospital-based palliative care specialists when confronted with complex problems in the last phase of life. Telemedicine might facilitate direct, patient-centered communication between patients and proxies, primary care physicians, and specialist palliative care teams (SPCTs). This study focuses on the impact of teleconsultation technologies on the relationships between home-based palliative care patients and hospital-based palliative care specialists.

Methods: This work consists of a qualitative study among patients, family members, and caregivers that utilizes long-term direct observations, semi-structured interviews, and open interviews following the observations.

Results: The analysis of the empirical data resulted in three key concepts that describe the impact of teleconsultation on the patient-professional relationship in palliative homecare: transcending the institutional walls of home and hospital; transparency of teleconsultation technology; and technologized, intimate patient-professional relationships. Teleconsultation offers (1) condensed encounters between home-based palliative care patients and distant professionals, (2) a unique insight into the patients' daily lives for palliative care specialists, and (3) long-term interaction that results in trustful relationships and experiences of intimacy and relief.

Conclusions: Teleconsultation fits the practice of home-based palliative care. Teleconsultation can, if well applied, facilitate computer-mediated but empathic patient-palliative care specialist relationships, which enable professional care attuned to the patient's context as well as patient involvement. This article proposes a teleconsultation implementation guide for optimal use of teleconsultation in daily palliative care practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatients*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Professional-Patient Relations*
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Remote Consultation*
  • Technology
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This work was supported by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). File number 313-99-120. URL: The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.