COVID-19 Telemedicine Experience May Permanently Change Mesothelioma Palliative Care
The global pandemic has introduced countless changes to our way of doing things, and not all are bad. One positive has been the greater acceptance of telemedicine in the delivery of palliative care, and it is likely that this will have a permanent impact on the way that mesothelioma patients and their families receive this crucial care in the future.
Palliative Care Makes A Real Difference for Patients with Malignant Mesothelioma
Studies have shown that the early and consistent delivery of palliative care for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma makes a real difference in their quality of life, but not all patients have access to this type of service. Those who do not live in close proximity to large teaching facilities or cancer centers either forego this valuable treatment or need to travel to be seen by a palliative care team. The necessity of providing care from a distance during the COVID-19 crisis has brought about a change.
As mesothelioma patients and others too sick or fearful of the virus needed care, facilities began to respond by providing access through telemedicine. Clinicians from all around the country did not need to leave their offices and could see several seriously ill patients a day, creating greater efficiencies while still delivering the care that was needed. The success of these programs makes it likely that this will continue well past the pandemic, providing palliative care to patients who are homebound or in some other way challenged to come to practitioners.
Palliative Care Delivers Help For All of Mesothelioma’s Challenges
According to Ashwin Kotwal, MD, assistant professor of geriatrics at the University of California San Francisco, palliative care’s benefits for mesothelioma patients and others facing serious illness are multifold. “It’s not just about end-of-life support but addressing physical symptoms throughout the disease trajectory, along with psycho-social and spiritual needs. And communication is a big part of what we do.”
Dr. Kotwal recently created a tele-palliative care program at the San Francisco VA Medical Center which will benefit many homebound or distant mesothelioma patients. Its emphasis has been on maintaining a high level of empathy while delivering care from a distance. “Now we’re in a situation where that’s more the normal way. But we have to make sure it’s not just a substitute for in-person care but a service that adheres to quality standards. That includes principles of good, effective communication,” Kotwal said.
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