Video conferencing communication used in university hospice study

Tuesday, October 12 2010

A researcher at the University of Missouri - Columbia is the recipient of a $2.1 million federal grant designed to investigate the role of communication in end-of-life care.

Debra Parker-Oliver, associate professor of rural sociology and social work at the university, secured the grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how improved communication, both in person and via web conferencing and video conferencing technology, between caregivers and hospice staff affects both patients and professionals.

"The problem that most severely impacts people in hospice care is pain management," Parker-Oliver, who is leading a team of researchers at MU and other universities, told the Missourian.

However, many families are concerned about the health risks associated with painkillers such as morphine, Vicodin and OxyContin - dangerous prescription medications with serious addictive potential. Since the average lifespan of a person entering hospital care is approximately two months, addiction shouldn't be a concern for families, Parker-Oliver says.

She maintains that improving the communication between the patients, his or her family and hospice staff would help put an end to misconceptions like these.

Parker-Oliver's study will monitor 544 patients, their caregivers and hospice-care professionals over four years. It will study video conferences every other week between caregivers and the professionals, measuring the patients' and caregivers' perceptions of pain on a scale of 1-10 after each virtual visit.