Background In March 2020, care within hospices had to be dramatically altered to comply with COVID-19 government guidance. Some services at Dorothy House Hospice were rapidly suspended, others adapted due to safety restrictions. Frequently, the human touch, typically enshrined in hospice care, was replaced with virtual/remote connections including video (Zoom) and telephone calls.
Aim To identify and understand the impact of communication changes on patients’, clients’ and families’ experiences of Dorothy House Hospice in the context of COVID-19 and explore their future communication preferences.
Method In July 2020 a postal survey was sent to all who had used Dorothy House Hospice services since March 2020. Using closed questions plus free text comments, the survey asked about people’s experiences of services since March 2020 including levels of satisfaction with communication, difficulties encountered and preferences for future communication types. Data were analysed using frequency counts, with exemplar quotations extracted.
Results Responses were received from 218 participants comprising: patients (62%), family/carers/friends (28%) and bereaved people (10%). 189 (87%) of respondents reported receiving the right amount of information despite service changes, and 185 (85%) were happy with the format of contact received. 172 (62%) respondents did not want to receive video calls in future, however, 71% (n=10) of respondents aged 18-44 were happy with this method, compared with 12% (n=18) aged 65+. Respondents reported minor technical difficulties with Zoom and regret at restrictions on face-to-face interactions. Concerns surrounding privacy during remote consultations at home, and hearing difficulties, were occasionally raised.
Conclusion The majority of responses were overwhelmingly positive; patients, clients and families were reassured and appreciative that they were still able to access Dorothy House Hospice services, albeit sometimes in alternative formats. Steps to improve online access and technical support/education are needed to support older service users to access services with confidence.
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