Many thoracic oncologists adopted telehealth for first time during pandemic

According to a new report presented at the IASLC 2021 World Conference on Lung Cancer more and more thoracic oncologists are adopting telehealth thanks to pandemic.

The report also notes that nearly two-thirds of these oncologists used telehealth for the first time. Covid-19 pandemic forced many in the healthcare sector to adopt telehealth based solutions to keep in touch with their existing patients, provide them guidance, take updates and to provide consultation to new patients.

Covid-19 pandemic force every sector to adopt never used before working techniques and healthcare sector was no different. In fact health care sector was one of the sectors that adopted telehealth and telemedicine at the fastest rates. With face-to-face consultation almost becoming non-existent during the pandemic, telehealth and telemedicine emerged as essential communications tools during the pandemic.

To check how well telehealth is being adopted by the thoracic care professionals, the IASLC Communications Committee developed a 24-question survey covering two broad themes concerning the impact of the pandemic on the use of telehealth and lung cancer/mesothelioma care. Of the 141 respondents, an overwhelming two-thirds (65.2 percent) reported they used telehealth for the first time while billing (where appropriate) at normal rates (48.2%); nearly half reported that telehealth is here to stay (48.2%).

The most common barriers to adoption of telehealth were lack of resources for patients (66.1%) and regulatory limitations (56.2%), with patient interest and lack of institutional resources not rated as barriers (43.1% and 41.4%, respectively).

The top advantages for providers/patients were continuity of care and maintenance of contact with patients (88%-92% of respondents). Top disadvantages for providers were lack of human contact (72.9%), lack of patient internet access/tech knowledge (71.3%) and missing informal aspects of face-to-face visits (71.3%); these also ranked as top concerns for patients (74.8%,74%, 76.1% and 68.4%, respectively).

Physicians felt that telehealth was most appropriate during surveillance (94.1%) and least so for initial diagnosis (69.8%). Most felt that patients were receptive to telehealth (55.3%), however, clinicians worried that its use would increase healthcare disparities (29.7%).

Overall, most felt that the pandemic had a negative impact on care (68%), with impacts on accessing diagnostics (i.e., biopsy), clinical trials (i.e., reduction in trials), basic/translational research (i.e. decrease in activity) as well as care (i.e. surgery). There was also a decrease in numbers accessing lung cancer screening (86.9%).

Although, telehealth has been widely adopted, issues remain such as healthcare access, point of use in the care pathway and telehealth platform selection.

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