Open Access Research article

Palliative care professional education via video conference builds confidence to deliver palliative care in rural and remote locations

Robin A Ray1*, Ofra Fried2 and Daniel Lindsay1

Author Affiliations

1 College of Medicine and Dentistry, Anton Breinl Research Centre for Health System Strengthening, James Cook University, Townsville 4811, Australia

2 Townsville Health District Palliative Care Service, 100 Angus Smith Drive, Douglas 4814, Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:272  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-272

Published: 19 June 2014

Abstract

Background

People living in rural and remote locations are disadvantaged in accessing palliative care. This can be attributed to several factors including the role diversity and the low numbers of patients with specific conditions, as well as the difficulties rural health practitioners have in accessing opportunities for professional education. A program of multidisciplinary palliative care video conferences was presented to health practitioners across part of northern Australia in an effort to address this problem.

Method

The educational content of the video conferences was developed from participant responses to an educational needs assessment. Following cycles of four consecutive video conferences, 101 participants completed evaluative on-line surveys. The quantitative data were analysed using frequencies and analysis of variance tests with post-hoc analyses where appropriate, and an accessibility and remoteness index was used to classify their practice location.

Results

All participants found the content useful regardless of their remoteness from the tertiary centre, their years of experience caring for palliative care patients or the number of patients cared for each year. However, change in confidence to provide palliative care as a result of attending the video conferences was significant across all disciplines, regardless of location. Doctors, medical students and allied health professionals indicated the greatest change in confidence.

Conclusions

The provision of professional education about palliative care issues via multidisciplinary video conferencing increased confidence among rural health practitioners, by meeting their identified need for topic and context specific education. This technology also enhanced the networking opportunities between practitioners, providing an avenue of ongoing professional support necessary for maintaining the health workforce in rural and remote areas. However, more attention should be directed to the diverse educational needs of allied health professionals.

Keywords:
Rural workforce; Palliative care; Education; Video conferencing; Capacity; Confidence