Researchers from the School of Health Sciences at the University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom, have completed the first-ever systematic review of cancer survivors’ experience of online and telephone telehealth interventions in cancer care, according to a recent study reported by Anna Cox, PhD, and colleagues in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.1
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, Dr. Cox and colleagues found that the majority of cancer survivors considered the use of telehealth to be a positive and worthwhile experience.
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 in person.
There were some aspects of telehealth that cancer survivors liked less than traditional methods of care. For example, some survivors viewed telehealth as an impersonal service, which 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).
Dr. Cox revealed: “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 the often burdensome visits to the hospital and enabled the integration of care into daily routines. 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.”
“We are now living in a digital world, and it is important that our care models take advantage of this 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. ■
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit www.jmir.org.