Telehealth Allows Cancer Patients To Receive The Care They Deserve.

Aug 15, 2023

In August we recognize World Cancer Support Month as well as Lung Cancer and Breast Cancer Awareness Days. Cancer impacts the lives of nearly 40 percent of the population, and half of all cancer diagnoses are among those aged 70 and older. The widespread impact of this disease, along with its proclivity to affect older populations means that telehealth is a viable option for getting cancer care patients the care they need.

Cancer treatment has been said to be among the best suited for telehealth programs, among other diagnoses that require reoccurring appointments such as diabetes and mental health treatment. There are many reasons for the high praise that telehealth has received among cancer patients; studies have shown that oncology patients who utilized telehealth for their care reported a better experience on the grounds of increased access and quality of care when compared to traditional in-person care. Of over 33,000 oncology patients surveyed, 75.8 percent of patients reported they were satisfied with their care access through telehealth, compared to 62.5 percent of patients receiving in-person care.

Telehealth for cancer care can be particularly beneficial for older age groups, who make up a majority of cancer patients. Telehealth keeps patients from having to leave their homes, find ways to travel to an appointment if they cannot drive, or use limited funds to pay for expensive specialists. One study reported that of 185 blood cancer patients 73 and older, frailty exams conducted virtually through telehealth were an acceptable substitute for in-person exams and could be beneficial for those with autoimmune disorders in order to reduce the chance of illness. One study from the National University of Singapore found that among older patients with cancer, there were reports of high satisfaction when using telehealth, and participants found telehealth to be a convenient means of receiving treatment.

The praise for telehealth interventions in cancer care is sung far and wide. Lance Mallinson, a lung cancer patient from New Jersey, was receiving care at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton, found that telehealth allowed him to stay close to home while receiving treatment from far away specialists. “We were told, ‘You’ve got to go to Philly. You’ve got to go to New York.’” said Mallinson’s wife Donna. “Thank God we didn’t do that. With the number of appointments, the long car rides, the very early morning times set for more scans and tests…well, that would mean we’d have to stay nearby in a hotel the night before.” Donna continues, “To tell you the truth, I think we got better, more personalized care right here in Hamilton and being forced to travel all the time was not a factor. Speed is also such an important factor when you have something like this. You’ve got to get from point A to B to C quickly. And the quicker you can do all this, the better. It’s your brain working overtime too. You just want to get this taken care of right away. We were able to meet with Dr. Langenfeld the next week in a teleconference.”

Telehealth reduces costs by limiting travel expenses and creating better access to necessary specialists from the comfort of a patient’s home. Studies from National Cancer Institute and the Moffitt Cancer Center found that telehealth significantly lowers costs and improves convenience for patients with cancer. Telehealth, on average, saved oncology patients about $200 per visit in indirect cost and saved them years in time spent traveling or at in-person visits. The National Cancer Institute reports that telehealth saves oncology patients an average of 2.9 hours of driving time and shortening time in-clinic by an average of 1.2 hours.

As the Biden Administration advances toward its goal of ending cancer as we know it, we urge Congress to take the necessary steps to get cancer patients access to the care they deserve. Telehealth access must be permanently protected, now.

Learn more about how Congress can act now to safeguard access to telehealth HERE.