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ASCO Position Statement Recommends Specific Actions for Applying Telemedicine in Cancer Care During Pandemic and Beyond


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A new position statement by ASCO calls for the continuation of flexibilities in reimbursement that have allowed the expanded use of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement, which also calls for further research on telemedicine’s effectiveness and benefits, offers recommendations for federal and state coverage, health equity, patient education, and research in this growing and evolving field.

“The pandemic required an enormous adjustment as the cancer community rapidly implemented telemedicine to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality cancer care for our patients,” said ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO. “As telemedicine’s role in care delivery continues to evolve, this interim statement is intended to provide guidance on significant issues that have emerged during the public health emergency.”

Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO

Lori J. Pierce, MD, FASTRO, FASCO

ASCO’s statement also describes challenges regarding the use of telemedicine in oncology, including data privacy, data security, and medical liability. In addition, since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services adjusted the reimbursement rates and scope for telemedicine visits, there is worry that the increased availability of telemedicine visits could increase health-care utilization and spending. More research is needed to better understand cost, acceptance, and utility of telemedicine in cancer care.

To offer guidance on how oncologists can implement telemedicine while addressing such concerns, ASCO developed the following recommendations. This guidance reflects the current state of cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic under the U.S. government’s declaration of a public health emergency.

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should continue the reimbursement flexibilities it has implemented to ensure telehealth is accessible to practitioners and patients during the public health emergency and should consider extending those expanded telehealth policies after the public health emergency ends.
  • State and federal policymakers should make permanent appropriate coverage and reimbursement for audio-only services.
  • Policymakers should ensure broad coverage and adequate reimbursement for all telemedicine services by all plans and payers.
  • Federal and state governments should work to promote health equity by encouraging use of telemedicine in all care settings, including but not limited to health safety net providers.
  • Patient education efforts by providers, clinicians, and other health-care stakeholders should include information on utilizing telemedicine.
  • Federal and state governments should promote universal access to high-speed broadband through expanding digital infrastructure.
  • Medical liability policies should provide coverage for telehealth, and physicians should make sure they are covered in all states where they practice.
  • Neither public nor commercial payers should apply burdensome utilization management policies in telemedicine.

Guidance on telemedicine and other pandemic-related issues is available in ASCO’s COVID-19 Resource Center, and more information about telemedicine can be found at ASCO’s patient information website, Cancer.Net


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