COVID-19 regional boarder closures in Western Australia necessitated novel approaches to rural health care delivery. Visiting consultants were required to curtail their service to regional centres to abide with government and health department directives. In response, a TeleHealth VideoConferencing outpatient service to facilitate standards of care was rapidly implemented. The study aimed to develop an understanding of client and carer perception of the service and seek opinion regarding future models of outpatient care provision.
All 254 Great Southern Cancer Service patients who engaged in VideoConference outpatient services from March to June 2020 were mailed surveys. Survey design included 13 qualitative Likert scale and 7 quantitative questions. Retrospective data interrogation provided demographic and cohort cancer information. Analysis included descriptive statistical and thematic methodologies.
The most prevalent cancers were breast (33%) and urogenital (20%). The mean age of respondents was 71 years. New patients to the clinic accounted for 17% of the cohort. Over 80% believed care was well organised with good coherence amongst the staff. However, only 60% were satisfied with the overall experience. Thematic analysis revealed five major themes including, “Getting On, Despite Covid-19”, “Compromising the Patient/Physician Relationship” and “Dissatisfaction with Technology”. In regard to the preferred future model of outpatient care, 65% requested face-to-face consultations. Only 5% requested solely VideoConference in the future.
Gratitude abound for availability of cancer services during a challenging period. However, overall satisfaction with the novel service was modest. Dissatisfaction arose from perceived loss of patient/physician rapport, internet deficits and being unable to fully engage with technology. Face-to-face consultation was the preferred outpatient model of care for future appointments. The study highlights areas of TeleHealth VideoConferences that can be improved and reminds us not to underestimate the value held by the client, and their carers, of face-to-face outpatient cancer care provision.