By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - May 09, 2023
Telemedicine increased substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for cancer care where keeping infection risk at a minimum was crucial for immunocompromised patients. But did patients prefer virtual visits over being with the physician in person? The answer is yes, according to a new study from Moffitt Cancer Center.
“The pandemic forced a reshuffling of precious health care resources. Providers looking after cancer patients needed innovative approaches for high-quality and timely care,” said Dr. Krupal B. Patel, study author and assistant member of the Head and Neck – Endocrine Oncology Department at Moffitt. “Anecdotally, we knew from the feedback of clinical providers that our telemedicine implementation was effective and efficient. However, it was important to have surrogate outcome measures from the patients’ perspective.”
Moffitt surveyed 39,268 patients receiving care during the height of the pandemic, April 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Most of the patients, 33,318, had in-person visits, while the remaining 5,950 participated in telemedicine visits. The results, published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, showed that telemedicine patients expressed more satisfaction when compared to in person visits in the areas of access to care and amount of concern demonstrated by their care provider.
|In Person Visits||Telemedicine Visits|
|Access to Care||62.5%||75.8%|
Further analysis of telemedicine data showed no variation in patient experience of care rates over time, indicating that telemedicine is effective and has potential as a continued aspect of cancer care delivery.
“Telemedicine visits can often be incorporated in patients’ day-to-day schedule so they can complete their appointments at convenient times such as before or after work, or during a break. It gives them flexibility and ultimately increases convenience and access,” said Dr. Philippe Spiess, study co-author and medical director of Virtual Care at Moffitt.
Spiess added that telemedicine may not be appropriate for all cancer patients or types of clinic visits. Moffitt has taken great diligence in considering which patients can and should be offered virtual care.
Saving with Telemedicine
This is not the first time Moffitt has published research related to telemedicine. Earlier this year, a study published in JAMA Network Open led by Patel found patients and providers could save time and money by implementing virtual care.
An analysis of more than 25,000 virtual visits between April 2020 and June 2021 showed a total savings of 3,789,963 travel miles (a distance equal to traveling around the Earth 152.2 times) and 75,055 roundtrip drive hours (an equivalent of 8.6 calendar years). An additional 29,626 hours (an equivalent of 3.4 calendar years) were saved in clinic visits by using telemedicine. A further breakdown of cost estimated the total savings per visit ranged between $147.40 to $186.10.
Telemedicine is also good for our environment in minimizing our carbon footprint. The Moffitt team did additional analysis and found for patients living within a driving distance of 60 minutes from the cancer center, an estimated 19.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were saved per visit, an equivalent of 91.5 passenger vehicles driven for one year. For those living further than 60 minutes away, an estimated 98.6 kilograms of CO2 emissions, or 591 passenger vehicles driven for one year, were saved.
Given all the benefits of telemedicine, Moffitt is continuing to expand and improve its virtual care services, including streamlined scheduling, active technical support and interpreter service integration.