Virtual Palliative Care Matches In-Person for Advanced Lung Cancer

Virtual Palliative Care Matches In-Person for Advanced Lung Cancer

The REACH PC trial, presented at the 2024 ASCO Annual Meeting, revealed that telehealth palliative care visits for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) are as beneficial as in-person visits. Conducted by Joseph A. Greer, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, the study involved 1,250 patients from 22 cancer centers across the United States. The findings indicated that telehealth and in-person visits provided comparable quality of life, satisfaction with care, and mood symptoms for the patients, suggesting that telehealth can be a viable alternative for delivering palliative care.

The study's participants had an average age of 65, with over half being women and the majority identified as White, non-Hispanic, and married. Despite the comparable outcomes between telehealth and in-person care, the research noted that patient mood symptoms did not significantly differ between the two groups. This has implications for healthcare policy, emphasizing the need for continued access to telehealth services, especially for vulnerable populations with serious illnesses.

Additionally, a stepped-care model using a decrement in quality of life to trigger more intensive palliative care was found to result in fewer palliative care visits and fewer days in hospice without reducing the benefits to patients' quality of life. Jennifer S. Temel, M.D., highlighted that this approach could be more scalable and effective, supporting the need for early palliative care for advanced cancer patients. This research underscores the potential for telehealth to increase access to essential palliative care services, particularly as patients with advanced cancer are living longer due to ongoing treatments.


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