Cancer care

Cancer patients very satisfied with telehealth specialist consultations

Oncology patients are overwhelmingly satisfied with telehealth received during restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian research reveals .

A Sydney study of more than 100 cancer patients, mostly with advanced disease (63%), found 95% of participants were satisfied with telehealth.

Participants strongly agreed that they could talk to their specialist easily and openly via telehealth, and ask and get their questions answered.

The study, published in the Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, found more than 90% of respondents indicated that they understood what their specialist had told them and more than 80% felt they had not missed anything important.

As well, more than 90% of patients felt their privacy and confidentiality were still preserved during a telehealth consultation via phone or video.

There were apparently no serious technical issues given most patients (>90%) had no difficulty seeing and hearing during the consultation.

Just under half (49%) of patients indicated they felt it was important for the specialist to perform a physical examination.

About a third of patients said they would rather travel to hospital for an appointment and another smaller group of patients were unsure.

However 68% of patients indicated that they preferred to have another phone or video consultation rather than travel to hospital.

Overall 82% of participants indicated they would continue telehealth consultations after the pandemic if this was an ongoing option.

“The results showed phone appointments (vs. video, p < 0.002), patients with advanced cancer (vs. early, p < 0.036) and pre-chemotherapy/immunotherapy/targeted therapy reviews (vs. follow-up appointment not requiring active monitoring of toxicities, p < 0.001) were significantly associated with a willingness to continue telehealth after the pandemic.”

The study, led by Dr Andrew Parsonson, said that not all consultations were suitable for telehealth.

“Consultations that may not be ideal for telehealth include new consultations when a patient is not known to their specialist, when difficult news is being delivered or when patients are acutely unwell and require immediate intervention.”

However patients in the study had indicated a preference for a routine mix of both telehealth and face-to-face appointments.

“Clinicians have also suggested this previously, acknowledging that telehealth does not need to be used exclusively, but rather as an adjunct to usual modes of care delivery,” the study said.

The investigators concluded that more research into the effectiveness, safety and implementation of telehealth as a complement to traditional face-to-face cancer care was required.


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