Before the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth was a rarity in the world of oncology. However, once the public health emergency put travel restrictions on travel, meeting with clinicians via computer or phone became more common, and short-term policy changes allowed for the shift, explained Mark Fleury, policy principal for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
Fleury and his colleagues recently conducted a survey and found that 79% of patients reported that telehealth access for out-of-state cancer treatment centers was important, while 40% reported that they have continued their telehealth services after the COVID-19 public health emergency ended.
Not only does telehealth improve access to oncology experts, but according to data published earlier this year, it may also save patients over $100 on average per oncology visit.
This is something that we had started doing some telehealth testing via the survey right before the pandemic started. It was interesting that we had some baseline data and then we were able to (collect more data) during sort of the peak of the public health emergency.
Now that we’re beyond it, what we see is not surprising, telehealth (had) fairly low adoption, pre-pandemic pre-COVID. Whereas now, it’s fairly widely used. Now, there were a lot of short-term policy changes during the public health emergency. You know, things like lifting restrictions on sites of where the patient had to be, and also relaxing some restrictions about being able to do telehealth across state lines. And so part of it is again just understanding how the baseline of the folks who have used telehealth has changed; it’s gone up and I think it’s stayed up and I think we’ll continue to see that.
But then the other thing that we asked really is about sort of the importance of being able to access out of state telehealth again, we know that especially in either smaller states, border states, — cities that border different states or something like that. It’s not unusual for a patient to live in one state and cross the line to get care and another and, specifically, we want to understand that we had nearly 80% of the respondents indicate that they felt it was very important to be able to access that services of providers who may not be in the states where they live.
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