Patients With Cancer May Prefer Telemedicine Appointments Over In-Person Visits When Both Are Available
Investigators have found that telemedicine may consistently outperform in-person visits for cancer care when assessed for access to care, provider response, and patient experience, according to a new study published by Patel et al in JNCCN–Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.
“The pandemic forced a reshuffling of precious health-care resources. Providers looking after patients [with cancer] needed innovative approaches for high-quality and timely care,” explained lead study author Krupal B. Patel, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Assistant Member in the Department of Head and Neck–Endocrine Oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center. “Anecdotally, we knew from the feedback of clinical providers that our telemedicine implementation was effective and efficient. However, it was important to have surrogate outcome measures from the patients’ perspective. Patient experience surveys provided us with an opportunity to study this in more detail,” he added.
Study Methods and Results
In the new study, the investigators compared the survey responses of 39,268 patients, across more than 50,000 visits, who experienced telemedicine and in-person appointments during and after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
The investigators noted that 33,318 of the patients who participated in the survey had in-person appointments and 5,950 of the patients had telemedicine appointments. When it came to access to care 75.8% of telemedicine appointments were rated as highly satisfying vs 62.5% of in-person appointments. Additionally, the participants reported high satisfaction in 90.7% of telemedicine appointments and 84.2% of in-person appointments regarding provider response and the amount of concern demonstrated by their care providers. The investigators noted that there were no significant changes over time for either category.
“Telemedicine visits can be incorporated in[to] patients’ day-to-day schedules so they can complete their appointments before or after work, or during a break. It gives them flexibility and ultimately increases access,” highlighted senior study author Philippe E. Spiess, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Oncology and Urology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, a genitourinary oncologist at the Moffitt Cancer Center, and Vice-Chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel on Bladder and Penile Cancer. “As care providers, we should be leading the discussion and advocating on our patients’ behalf for both cross-state licensing and continued reimbursements for telemedicine visits,” he emphasized.
“Many of our institutions were forced to adopt telemedicine visits in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This large, retrospective study shows [that] the patient experience [for telemedicine visits] was similar to, or better than, in-person visits during the study period,” underscored Travis Osterman, DO, MS, FAMIA, FASCO, Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Associate Vice President for Research Informatics at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Director of Cancer Clinical Informatics at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, who was not involved in this study. “Going forward, oncology practices need to consider telemedicine as an option for appropriate patients,” he concluded.
The investigators hope their findings can demonstrate the benefits of telemedicine appointments over in-person appointments—including the potential for reducing costs such as travel, parking, and housing arrangements. However, the investigators noted that not all oncology appointments should be virtual. Careful patient selection is critical to determine which patients must be seen in person for tests and other treatments.
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit jnccn.org.
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®.