Videoconferencing Eases Anxiety, Distress of the ‘Distance’ Caregivers of Cancer Patients

May 13, 2020
Peter Wehrwein
Peter Wehrwein

Videoconferencing reduced anxiety and stress among “distance caregivers,” according to the results of randomized trial scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Videoconferencing reduced anxiety and stress among “distance caregivers,” according to the results of randomized trial scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The results of the trial, shared yesterday in a “presscast” yesterday in advance of the now-virtual, May 29-31 meeting, also high satisfaction rates with the experience of allowing caregiver to participate remotely in a patient visit, although it did extend the length of the visit by two to four minutes, according to the Sara L. Douglas, Ph.D., RN, a professor at Case Western University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. 

Distance caregivers are caregivers who live more than an hour away from the patient, and they account for about 1 in 5 caregivers. In this study, they were middle age (average age, 47), mostly (70%) women, and usually (63%) the child of the patient. 

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Distance caregivers report higher distress and anxiety levels than caregivers who live closer, often because of lack of firsthand information and uncertainty about the patient’s condition, Douglas and her colleagues noted. 

The four-month trial randomized 441 patient-distance caregiver pairs  into one of three groups. The first had monthly videoconference coaching sessions with a nurse practitioner or social worker, videoconference participation in patient appointments with an oncologist, and access to a website for distance caregivers. The second group didn’t have coaching sessions but participated in the appointments. The third just had access to the website.

At the end of the trial, standardized measurement of anxiety showed that only the distance caregivers in the first group that got the full suite of services had a large reduction in anxiety (a 21.2% improvement). The distance caregivers in that group also had the greatest improvement in a measurement of distress (54.3%). 

Remote care of all kinds is becoming more common because of COVID-10, and some doctors and patients are pushing for audio-only visits. Douglas said that, anecdotally, oncologists like the video part of the remote visit because they can show scans and pick up nonverbal cues.