Telemedicine Guidance to Facilitate Breast Cancer Care
- Telemedicine has been adopted by medical societies and physicians as a safe option for both patients and medical staff.
- The European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) recommends that practitioners switch to tele-medicine as much as possible for established breast cancer patients who are presenting with new symptoms or side effects.
- Tele-oncology (Telemedicine) can provide improved access for patients who live in remote areas for whom travel is not possible for routine visits and facilitate communication with a multidisciplinary team.
Elkaddoum R, Haddad FG, Eid R, et al.
Telemedicine for cancer patients during COVID-19 pandemic: between threats and opportunities.
Future Oncol 2020; 16(18):1225-1227.
With the emergence of coronavirus, there was a new phenomenon regarding the doctor patient relationship, which is telemedicine. Seemingly overnight, telemedicine has been adopted by medical societies and physicians as a safe option for both patients and medical staff. One concern regarding this new approach to care is equitable access. A concern arises that patients who lack reliable internet may be unable to reliably access this remote care. A concern among physicians is the ability to carry out appropriate physical examination. Fortunately, the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) issued guidelines concerning patient care during the pandemic. ESMO recommends that practitioners switch to tele-medicine as much as possible for established breast cancer patients who are presenting with new symptoms or side effects.
One great advantage of tele-oncology is the reduction in use of personal protective equipment (PPE). In the setting of tele-oncology, physicians can follow up with patients, discuss results and evaluate response without using PPE to facilitate this. While access to internet can be an issue, tele-oncology can provide improved access for patients who live in remote areas for whom travel is not possible for routine visits. In addition, tele-medicine can facilitate collaboration of multiple specialists working on a multi-disciplinary team to deliver the best care for breast cancer and other oncology patients.
Confidentiality of patient information is an essential tenant of health care delivery that must be continued via telemedicine. Secure video consultation systems have been set up to ensure patient confidentiality.
While tele-health has been available for years, this wide-spread implementation has been quickly adopted by patients and providers. COVID-19 has presented much illness and burden on our world; however, this situation provides a unique opportunity to investigate new ways of delivering safe and effective oncology care. Quickly, our healthcare community is learning to grow and adapt in new ways. If your cancer provider asks you to try your next appointment via a tele-medicine platform, do not be afraid. While tele-oncology is a rapidly evolving field, it is not an inferior option and holds potential benefits for both the patient and the future of health care delivery.