Almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by cancer, and each diagnosis has its own set of challenges. But a problem no cancer patient should have to deal with is whether they can see a doctor who can address their medical needs.
Yet the American Society of Clinical Oncology has projected a significant shortage of oncologists in the United States by 2025. And for rural patients needing cancer care, access to an oncologist is limited with 19% of the U.S. population residing in rural areas. In comparison, only 7% of oncologists practice in rural communities.
While no one wants to receive a cancer diagnosis, telemedicine can augment care for patients who will ultimately need cancer treatment.
Receiving a Second Opinion
After a cancer diagnosis is received, the American Cancer Society recommends that patients seek a second opinion. It’s normal to wonder if another doctor could offer more information or a different treatment plan. Getting a second opinion can help patients feel more secure about their diagnosis and treatment options.
But for rural, remote patients, and those with mobility limitations, receiving a second opinion can be challenging. Regional hospitals and clinics might not have a specialist for the patient’s specific type of cancer, and traveling a long distance to a well-equipped hospital can be a hardship. By utilizing telemedicine, patients can receive a second opinion from a specialist, without the burden of traveling, while still being treated at their local hospital.
At the nationally-recognized Penn Brain Tumor Center, specialists are utilizing telemedicine to provide second opinions to patients through their local care teams—bringing the best medical care possible to cancer patients regardless of where they live.
The Need for Specialist Care
The need for telespecialty care doesn’t end with brain tumors. There are more than 100 types of cancers, and many patients don’t have access to the specialist they need forcing them to travel long distances to clinics that specialize in their type of cancer.
This is where telehealth can help. By connecting to a specialist through virtual care technologies, patients can have convenient access to expertise and monitoring.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), they recognize that bone marrow transplant patients live worldwide, but that transplant expertise isn’t equally available in all areas. By connecting patients to their transplant specialists through telemedicine, patients receive local and convenient access to expert oncologists and progress checks instead of traveling to MSKCC.
Additional Telehealth Advantages for Cancer Care
Telemedicine can provide cancer care in several additional ways:
- Patient Monitoring. Patients can report serious or worsening outcomes and receive virtual coordinated action from their care team.
- Mental Health. Many patients who are undergoing active cancer treatment also need counseling services. By utilizing telepsychiatry, patients can have easier access to care during their treatment.
- By connecting patients and their families with distant specialists, information such as a new diagnosis or medication is easily shared.
- Certain cancers, like melanoma, become more deadly when there is a lack of information. By providing virtual screenings, patients who would otherwise not see a provider can receive preventative care.
While not all cancer treatment is virtual, GlobalMed’s virtual care delivery solutions can help many cancer patients receive vital and supportive care. With approximately 38.4 percent of people likely to be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and a prediction of specialist shortages, it’s clear that patients and their families need expanded access to treatment. Telemedicine can bring world-class specialty care to cancer patients no matter their zip code—bridging the healthcare gaps that many cancer patients encounter.