Background: Patients receiving dialysis have unmet palliative care needs. Limited access to palliative care is a key barrier to its integration into routine dialysis care. Objective: To determine the feasibility and acceptability of telepalliative care in rural dialysis units. Methods: This was a single-arm pilot clinical trial. The target population was patients with kidney failure receiving outpatient dialysis in a rural U.S. state. Feasibility was measured by one-month completion rate. Acceptability was measured using an adapted telemedicine questionnaire. Results: We recruited 39 patients with mean age 71.2 years to undergo a telepalliative care consultation while receiving dialysis. Four specialty palliative care clinicians (three physicians and one nurse practitioner) conducted the visits. The recruitment rate was 40% (39/96), scheduling rate was 100% (39/39), and one-month completion rate was 77% (30/39). Thirty-six patient participants (14 women and 22 men) completed the baseline survey. Audiovisual aspects of the visit were rated highly. More than 80% reported the visit being at least as good as an in-person visit and 41% felt the teleconsult was better. Eighty-one percent of patients felt the appointment was relevant to them, 58% felt they learned new things about their condition, and 27% reported the appointment changed the way they think about dialysis. Discussion: Telepalliative care is acceptable to patients receiving dialysis and is a feasible approach to integrating palliative care in rural dialysis units. The study was registered with Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT03744117).
Keywords: dialysis; kidney failure; rural health; serious illness communication; telemedicine; telepalliative care.