Projects per year
Research advocates for the use of intensive, prophylactic swallowing therapy to help reduce the severity of dysphagia in patients receiving (chemo)radiotherapy ([C]RT) for head/neck cancer (HNC). Unfortunately, the intensity of this therapy, coupled with growing patient numbers and limited clinical resources, provides challenges to many international cancer facilities. Telepractice has been proposed as a potential method to provide patients with greater support in home-practice, whilst minimising burden to the health service. This study investigated the clinical and patient-attributable costs of delivering an intensive, prophylactic swallowing therapy protocol via a new telepractice application “SwallowIT” as compared to clinician-directed FTF therapy and independent patient self-directed therapy. Patients (n = 79) with oropharyngeal HNC receiving definitive (C)RT were randomised to receive therapy via a: clinician-directed (n = 26), patient-directed (n = 27), or SwallowIT-assisted (n = 26) model of care. Data pertaining to health service costs (service time, consumables, therapy resources), patient-attributable costs (travel and wages) and patient-reported health-related quality of life (QoL) (AQoL-6D) were collected. SwallowIT provided a cost-efficient model of care when compared to the clinician-directed model, with significant cost savings to both the health service and to HNC consumers (total saving of $1901.10 AUD per patient; p < 0.001). The SwallowIT model also proved more cost-effective than the patient-directed model, yielding clinically significantly superior QoL at the end of (C)RT, for comparable costs. Overall, when compared to the alternate methods of service-delivery, SwallowIT provided a financially viable and cost-effective method for the delivery of intensive, prophylactic swallowing therapy to patients with HNC during (C)RT.