Telemedicine consultations and follow-ups are still preferred by most cancer patients.
During the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the main ways to consult a doctor was through phone or video, and it turns out that many people with cancer still prefer telehealth visits rather than in-person ones.
The end of the United States public health emergency is expected to remove some of the treatment flexibilities put in place during the COVID-19 period to allow for more accessible use of telemedicine. This news is not being received well since cancer patients prefer telemedicine even after the conclusion of the pandemic.
According to Krupa Patel, an oncologist from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, telemedicine brings an array of benefits for patients with cancer, including greater flexibility with scheduling, reduced travel expenses, and reduced commute time. A study published in the Official Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network included over 33,000 people with cancer and asked them questions about personal visits, with around 6,000 people taking telemedicine services during and after the pandemic’s peak from April 2020 to June 2021.
Around 76% of those patients reported a high rate of satisfaction with their access to their healthcare providers through tele-visits, compared with around 63% of people who met their doctors face-to-face. Approximately 91% of participants who contacted their doctor electronically were highly satisfied with how considerate and helpful their doctors were. On the other hand, only over 84% of candidates were fully satisfied with how they interacted in person with their doctor.
These findings stayed consistent, even after researchers considered other factors that could influence a person’s feelings related to telemedicine, such as insurance coverage and age.
However, telemedicine is not always suitable for patients. According to Paul Fu, a medical officer at the City of Hope, the type of care that oncologists provide can’t normally be provided online. And even though the City of Hope has also experienced an increase in telehealth visits during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center’s in-person assessments have continually demonstrated better results than telehealth visits. This has more to do with the customization and complexity needed for proper cancer treatment.
As per Dr. Richard Caravajal, telemedicine has been an amazing experience for both cancer patients and doctors. He is currently working at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute in New York as a director of medical oncology and deputy physician-in-chief.
The main concern circulating this topic was that there would be a spike in accidents or that things may not be handled as efficiently virtually, but this was proven wrong. The advancements in the telehealth sector have been more notable than expected, and more efficient tasks can now be performed than in the past. For example, if a patient has a serious condition or requires an infusion, they will need to visit their doctor in person. However, toxicity checks for patients on chronic or oral therapy for cancer treatment can be frequently done at home. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s next in the field of telehealth in America.