Role of Telehealth in Palliative Care

What is Telehealth

During the COVID-19 pandemic terms like “telehealth”, “telemedicine”, or “virtual visits” have become increasingly prominent as healthcare providers find ways to deliver care to patients while adhering to public health guidelines. However, telehealth isn’t a new concept. Virtual visits between patients and providers have been happening for years. Often this service is used to improve access to healthcare in rural areas.

Telehealth can be broadly defined as the use of technology to enable health care services to be delivered to patients at a distance1. Telehealth may be delivered through phone calls, live video calls, pre-recorded videos, or through the monitoring of patients through wearable technology and health monitoring systems2.

Telehealth and Palliative Care

Generally, many patients prefer to receive palliative care in their homes rather than in a hospital. A recent review of 19 palliative care telehealth studies concluded that use of telehealth largely supported patients’ goal to remain at home through improving their access to their healthcare teams3.

This review also concluded that telehealth contributed to patients’ feelings of connectedness, security, and trust towards their health care providers. In particular, video-based delivery of telehealth was associated with stronger relationships and shared trust between patients and healthcare providers compared to audio-only delivery (i.e. phone calls)3. In many situations, these visits would likely need to be facilitated by caregivers to ensure the visits are beneficial for the patient. Other strengths of palliative care telehealth include reduced appointment travel and wait times3.

Although telehealth has been shown to be a useful tool for providing care, it isn’t intended to completely replace in-person visits. Rather, a combination of the two methods, remote and in-person may be most effective in most circumstances. There have been numerous barriers and downsides in the delivery of palliative care via telehealth. Namely, technology difficulties, updating electronic health records, and the inability to preform physical examinations4.

Future of Telehealth

Many of the adaptations from in-person to virtual palliative care caused by the COVID-19 will likely remain even once the pandemic is over4. As such, it is critical to reflect on the lessons learned by providers and organizations during this transition to virtual care to make meaningful improvements to future telehealth services for the benefit of future patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers.

  1. World Health Organization. (2016). Global Health Observatory Data: Telehealth. Retrived from

© WHO. 2021.

  1. Malasinghe, L. P., Ramzan, N., & Dahal, K. (2017). Remote patient monitoring: a comprehensive study. Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Humanized Computing, 10(1), 57-76.

© Malasinghe, L. P., Ramzan, N., & Dahal, K. 2017

  1. Steindal, S., Nes, A., Godskesen, T., Dihle, A., Lind, S., Winger, A., Klarare, A. (2020). Patients’ Experiences of Telehealth in Palliative Home Care: Scoping Review. J Med Internet Res. 22(5):e16218. URL: DOI: 10.2196/16218

©Simen A Steindal, Andréa Aparecida Goncalves Nes, Tove E Godskesen, Alfhild Dihle, Susanne Lind, Anette Winger, Anna Klarare. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 05.05.2020.

  1. Malone, E., Dionne-Odom, J. N., McCammon, S., Currie, E., Hicks, J., Tucker, R. O., … & Bakitas, M. (2021). Can you hear me now?: Improving palliative care access through telehealth. Research in Nursing & Health. URL: DOI:

© 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC