Cancer Survivors Find Online and Telephone Communication With Health-Care Professionals Beneficial

Key Points

  • Cancer survivors who had used telehealth reported their appreciation of the flexibility and convenience of the program.
  • The invisibility and perceived anonymity that telehealth provided reduced cancer survivors’ sense of vulnerability and, in some cases, enabled them to raise concerns remotely that they would not have wanted to discuss face-to-face.
  • Some survivors viewed telehealth as an impersonal service that did not allow them to meet their health-care team in person, while others were unable to engage with the service due to particular personal circumstances such as hearing issues or lack of computer literacy skills.

Researchers from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Surrey have completed the first-ever systematic review of cancer survivors’ experience of online and telephone telehealth interventions in cancer care, a new study by Cox et al in the Journal of Medical Internet Research reported.

To manage increasing demand on cancer services in the National Health Service (NHS), health-care providers are encouraging people to play an active role in managing their care. The telehealth system is one way this can be achieved—using technology to provide remote personalized health care to patients—which allows the exchange of data and communication between patients and health-care professionals. Telehealth services allow patients to have meetings and follow-up consultations either on the phone or through online services at a time that suits them.

Having examined studies that reported cancer patients’ direct views on their experience of telehealth, Anna Cox, PhD, and colleagues concluded that the majority of cancer survivors found the use of telehealth to be a positive and worthwhile experience.

Major Findings

Cancer survivors who had used telehealth reported their appreciation of the flexibility and convenience of the program, which enabled them to engage with health-care providers with minimum disruption to their lives and in a comfortable, familiar environment. The research also found that the invisibility and perceived anonymity that telehealth provided reduced cancer survivors’ sense of vulnerability and, in some cases, enabled them to raise concerns remotely that they would not have wanted to discuss face-to-face.

There were some aspects of telehealth that cancer survivors liked less. For example, some survivors viewed telehealth as an impersonal service that did not allow them to meet their health-care team in person. Other survivors were unable to engage with the service due to particular personal circumstances such as hearing issues (in a telephone-based intervention) or lack of computer literacy skills (in computer-based studies).

Study Implications

“Our research found that cancer survivors wanted to get back to their daily lives as quickly as possible.…Telehealth helped facilitate this, as it removed often burdensome visits to the hospital and enabled the integration of care into daily routines,” Dr. Cox said.

“For many cancer survivors, telehealth supported their independence and offered them reassurance. However, it is all down to personal preference, as some cancer survivors still preferred traditional methods of care,” she continued.

“We are now living in a digital world, and it is important that our care models take advantage of this in order to meet increased demands on the National Health Service. Involving a range of cancer survivors in the design of telehealth interventions is essential to their success,” she concluded.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


Advertisement

Advertisement



Advertisement