TeleLymphoedema: Feasibility and efficacy of using digital health in lymphoedema education and management of breast cancer related lymphoedema (BCRL) patients in country WA

Mrs Katherine Lamont1, Ms Pei Linn Sarah Ang2, Dr Wei-Sen Lam2

1WA Country Health Service (WACHS), Perth, Australia, 2Fiona Stanley and Fremantle Hospital Group (FSFHG), Murdoch, Perth, Australia

Background

Lymphoedema is a common side effect of cancer treatments, with approximately 20% of patients treated for breast, melanoma, gynaecological or prostate cancers impacted by malignancy-related lymphoedema.

Lymphoedema requires lifelong management and complex cases often require management by specialist lymphoedema practitioners. Access to lymphoedema services varies significantly across country WA with many patients traveling long distances and time away from home to access specialist lymphoedema support.

The TeleLymphoedema Project aims to provide timely and equitable access to specialist lymphoedema support, closer to home, provided by a skilled rural workforce, with input from metro-based lymphoedema specialists using telehealth.

Methods

A pilot service was implemented, involving a generalist physiotherapist or occupational therapist at selected WA Country Health Service (WACHS) sites reviewing a patient, with a specialist lymphoedema physiotherapist or occupational therapist from Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) supervising and educating both the allied health professional and patient via telehealth.

All participating WACHS allied health clinicians completed online lymphoedema education and videoconference upskilling sessions prior to seeing patients.

Discussion

Telehealth technology and dedicated links with metropolitan lymphoedema specialists can be used to support country allied health staff in providing high quality lymphoedema management and better patient outcomes at rural hospitals, closer to home for country patients. This pilot service has provided over 50 episodes of care to patients since commencement in November 2019, with other patient related benefits including reduction in travel, time away from home/work/family and travel associated costs. The evaluation of this pilot service will further inform expansion to other WACHS sites.


Biography:

Katherine Lamont is a Project Officer in Clinical Telehealth Development for WA Country Health Service. Katherine has had a long varied career in country health, both as a Physiotherapist and in her current Project Officer role, which has given her a wide and encompassing knowledge and understanding of rural and remote allied health issues and trends, both state and national. Katherine is particularly passionate about supporting allied health professionals in the country and increasing their opportunities for further education and training.

Sarah Ang is an oncology and lymphoedema physiotherapist with international certifications and over a decade of clinical experience in oncology rehabilitation and lymphoedema management. She has worked in both private and public settings. Her interest in lymphoedema ranges from early detection and prevention to management of chronic lymphoedema with complete decongestive therapy ( CDT).

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