According to a study done by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a severe shortage in oncologists is in the near future. By the year 2020, with the rapidly aging population, the demand for oncologists will have increased by 48% compared to the demand in 2005. However, the number of oncologists is not expected to increase to meet this need; instead there will be a shortage of 2,350 to 3,800 physicians.
Effects of the Shortage
What does this mean for those diagnosed with cancer? Potentially longer wait times and excessive travel time to reach a physician. Additionally, working oncologists may see an uptick in the number of patients and their overall workload. Those with rarer forms of cancer who require a specialist may have an even harder time finding a doctor within their reach.
Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, stated in an interview with Healio his concern over rural patients receiving proper care. I am concerned that, as medicine changes, things will be more centralized, and rural, sparsely populated areas will have greater difficulty accessing cancer health care.
While the shortage in oncologists is inevitable, there are solutions to help ease the workload on physicians while maintaining high standards of care.
Relieving the Shortage with Telemedicine
Dr. Richard J. Boxer, FACS, stated in an article written for Oncology Times that telemedicine or tele-oncology is a clear solution to the physician shortage, especially for those living in rural areas. Through telemedicine, rural hospitals can serve rural patients at better costs and help cut down on the time it takes rural patients to receive care, particularly specialty care.
With an oncologist shortage on the horizon, telemedicine offers a viable solution to link patients in isolated areas with the cancer specialist they need. Additionally, working oncologists can better leverage their time, see more patients in a day, while still providing personal and quality care.
GlobalMed Can Enhance Your Oncology Practice
Through video conferencing software, vitals monitoring, and integrated medical devices, oncologists and patients have the opportunity to connect, while saving on time, costs, and travel. GlobalMed offers telemedicine stations and devices for this very scenario. Software platforms such as our newly released eNcounter 4 offers end-to-end functionality through consultations and follow -up appointments. Our telemedicine stations, such as the ClinicalAccess Station or Xpress can be used in rural hospitals to reach a specialist across the country. Our Transportable Exam Station, or TES, is a fully capable telemedicine solution that can travel with the physician, cutting back on travel for patients, especially those in remote areas.
Cancer is a life-altering diagnosis, with an oncologist shortage and limited available specialists, patients may be concerned about what their future care might look like. Telemedicine offers the field of oncology a solution for continued quality care that benefits both the physician and patient.