Telehealth as Effective as In-Person Care for Early Palliative Treatment in Patients with Advanced Lung Cancer

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06/05/2024

ASCO Perspective Quote

“In patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, research shows that early palliative care improves patient outcomes, including survival. This large, randomized study demonstrated that telehealth delivery of palliative care is feasible, and results in outcomes comparable to in-person care. The findings underscore the considerable potential for improving access to and broader dissemination of palliative care to improve patient outcomes,” - Charu Aggarwal, MD, MPH, Leslye M. Heisler Associate Professor for Lung Cancer Excellence and Director, Precision Oncology Innovation, Penn Center for Cancer Care Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania

Study at-a-Glance

Focus

Effectiveness of telehealth delivered palliative care to patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and their caregivers.

Population

1,250 patients

Main Takeaway

Telehealth is as effective as in-person visits for delivering early palliative care to patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, maintaining quality of life and accessibility.  

Significance

  • The current standard of care involves the early integration of palliative and oncology care to improve outcomes in patients with advanced cancer. Despite national recommendations, early palliative care is underutilized due to clinician shortages and geographic and resource-based inaccessibility. 
  • These findings could influence future healthcare policies to more broadly integrate telehealth into palliative care standards, potentially reducing the need for extensive physical healthcare resources and making care more accessible to a wider demographic. 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — New research reinforces telehealth delivery of palliative care as an effective alternative to in-person visits for patients with advanced lung cancer, providing comparable quality-of-life benefits. This research will be presented at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting taking place May 31-June 4 in Chicago, Illinois.

About the Study

“Telehealth has the potential to substantially reduce burden on patients, clinicians, and healthcare resources while maintaining quality care. Our findings highlight the critical need for healthcare systems and policymakers to adopt telehealth more broadly into evidence-based palliative care standards,” said lead study author Joseph Greer, PhD, Co-Director, Cancer Outcomes Research & Education Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

This randomized comparative effectiveness trial involved 1,250 recently diagnosed patients with advanced NSCLC. Patients had palliative care sessions every four weeks, conducted via video visits for those randomly assigned to the telehealth group and in-person for those randomly assigned to the traditional care group. These sessions addressed physical and psychological symptoms, coping, illness understanding, care preferences and treatment decisions. The patients were a mean age of 65.5 years; 54.0% self-identified as women, 66.7% were married or partnered. The racial and ethnic composition was 10.4% African American or Black, 5.2% Asian, 82.7% White and 4.8% Hispanic or Latino.  

Key Findings

  • At week 24, patient quality-of-life scores were statistically equivalent between the telehealth and in-person groups (99.67 vs. 97.67 on a 0-136 scale). 
  • The rate of caregiver participation in the telehealth group was significantly lower compared to the in-person group (36.6% vs. 49.7%).
  • The two study groups did not differ significantly in patient-reported depression, anxiety or coping skills. 

Next Steps

Future research will assess whether specific patient subgroups benefit more from telehealth or in-person care, including evaluations based on age and proficiency with technology. Additionally, the impact of both care delivery methods on the quality of end-of-life care will be examined, particularly in patient-clinician communication about care preferences to further refine and optimize palliative care protocols.  

This study was funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) under the Phased Large Awards for Comparative Effectiveness Research (PLACER), Grant/Award Number: PLC-1609-35995.

View the full embargoed abstract

View author disclosures

View the News Planning Team disclosures:https://society.asco.org/sites/new-www.asco.org/files/content-files/about-asco/pdf/2024-am-ccc-disclosures.pdf

ATTRIBUTION TO THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CLINICAL ONCOLOGY ANNUAL MEETING IS REQUESTED IN ALL COVERAGE.

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