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Currently submitted to: JMIR Mental Health

Date Submitted: Sep 1, 2017
Open Peer Review Period: Sep 3, 2017 - Oct 29, 2017

NOTE: This is an unreviewed Preprint

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Psychosocial assessment using telehealth in adolescent and young adults with cancer: A randomised pilot study

  • John Alexander Chalmers; 
  • Ursula Margaret Sansom-Daly; 
  • Pandora Patterson; 
  • Geoffrey McCowage; 
  • Antoinette Anazodo

ABSTRACT

Background:

Adolescent and young adults (AYAs) with cancer are at increased risk of psychosocial difficulties relative to their healthy peers. Current models of in-patient face-to-face psychosocial care, whilst essential, may limit the capacity for clinicians to provide timely and personalised assessment and intervention to AYAs who are unable to attend due to barriers such as time, logistics, distance to travel and stigma. Telehealth offers a promising alternative towards increasing access to the provision of evidence-based psychosocial assessment and treatment for AYAs with cancer.

Objective:

This partially-randomised patient-preference pilot study aimed to examine the feasibility and acceptability of providing psychosocial assessment via telehealth to AYAs currently receiving treatment for cancer, relative to face-to-face delivery.

Methods:

Patients were eligible if they were: between the ages of 15-25; currently receiving treatment; had sufficient English; and were medically stable. Patients were recruited from oncology clinics/wards, and allocated to receive a psychosocial assessment (AYA Oncology Psychosocial Assessment Measure) with a clinical psychologist or social worker via face-to-face or telehealth modalities using a partially-randomised patient preference model. Patients completed a pre- and post-assessment questionnaire including validated and purposely designed feasibility and acceptability indices (YSQ, Treatment Credibility and Expectations Questionnaire, WAI) and measures of psychosocial wellbeing (K10, Peds-QL-AYA, AYA Oncology Screening Tool). Clinicians also completed a post-assessment questionnaire rating their impressions of the acceptability and feasibility of the intervention delivery via each modality.

Results:

Patients were recruited from three hospitals in Australia. Of 29 patients approached, 23 consented to participate (response rate = 79%). Participants were randomised to either the telehealth (n=8; 35%; mean age=16.50 years [range=15-23]; females=4 [50%]) or face-to-face (n=11; 62%; mean age=17 years [range=15-22]; females=8 [72.70%]) conditions. Four participants were withdrawn due to logistical/medical complications (attrition rate = 17.4%). The majority 6/8 (75%) of participants in the telehealth group used their own computer/iPad with minor technical difficulties occurring in 3/8 (37.5%) of assessments. Participants from both groups rated high working alliance (WAI: median patient response in the telehealth group = 74 [range: 59-84] and face to face group = 63 [range: 51-84]) and reported positive beliefs regarding the credibility and expectations of their treatment group. Post-assessment preferences between face-to-face or online modalities varied. The majority of patients in the telehealth group (5/8, 63%) reported no preference, whilst 6/11 (55%) in the face-to-face group reported a preference for the face-to-face modality.

Conclusions:

This study demonstrated that telehealth was acceptable, patient comfort was comparable across modalities, and no significant technological barriers were experienced. Despite this, patients varied in their preferred interview modality, highlighting the need to tailor treatment to patient preference and circumstance.

ClinicalTrial:

ACTRN12614001142628, http://www.anzctr.org.au/TrialSearch.aspx?searchTxt=ACTRN12614001142628&isBasic=True