ICYMI: Telehealth is an Integral Care Option for Cancer Patients
$23 Million for Telehealth Cancer Care Research Awarded by NIH Underscores Telehealth’s Impact on Oncology Care
Telehealth is an integral care option for cancer patients and offers benefits for patients and providers by expanding access to care and improving health outcomes and quality of life. In recognition of these benefits and virtual care’s importance in cancer care, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced a $23 million award for the study of telehealth use for cancer care. The award is to be distributed across four academic institutions that will establish centers of excellence that will then research telehealth’s impact on cancer care.
According to researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center, improved access to care through telehealth expands access to specialized care and results in satisfaction levels that are comparable to traditional, in-person care. As a recent multi-state University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center study revealed, “People with advanced cancer who communicated their symptoms weekly using an electronic survey had about a one-third better physical function and over a 15% better control of their symptoms compared to those who were evaluated less frequently via in-person clinical visits.”
Another study from researchers at the University of California analyzing January 2020 to May 2020 data found that telehealth was successful at maintaining complex care for cancer patients when in-person treatment was not available. Cancer patients who utilized telehealth have also reported positive satisfaction with their experience and said at home monitoring increased convenience and access because it allowed them to speak to their providers and ask questions without needing an appointment. This same University of Florida and Geisinger Medical Center study found that cancer patients reported more satisfaction with telehealth than with in person care, with approval ratings of 45 percent and 34 percent respectively.
As the National Cancer Institute recently highlighted, virtual cancer treatment benefits patients like Larry Starling, who managed his male breast cancer via telehealth and signaled that “his telehealth visits have felt more personal than his in-person office visits.”
The convenience and accessibility of telehealth for oncology patients, many of whom often have suppressed immune systems and lower levels of energy, has become a lifeline for supporting regular appointment attendance.
With NIH’s award, there will be an increase in studies that show the benefits of integrating telehealth into the health care system and highlight the need for permanent protections for this integral telehealth access.
ABOUT TELEHEALTH ACCESS FOR AMERICA
Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services. Learn more and take action today at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.