Cancer Telemedicine Visits: A Necessity During the Era of COVID-19

Social distancing during the public health emergency is imperative, especially for those with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. Cancer patients qualify on both counts.

Given the ease of coronavirus transmission, current and surviving cancer patients need to take extreme precautions for the foreseeable future. Potentially lifesaving cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy can temporarily weaken the immune system. Even after treatment is complete, the immune system may take many months or longer to recover.

(Watch now: Breast cancer survivor, Clara Pablo, talks about using Baptist Health Care On Demand from her home to connect with her oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute.)

“Miami Cancer Institute has delayed non-critical patient visits and surgeries, and we’ve advised our cancer patients to  shelter in place at home unless it’s absolutely vital they go out,” said Leonard Kalman, M.D., Executive Deputy Director and Chief Medical Officer of Miami Cancer Institute. “However, for those visits that cannot be delayed, telemedicine is a great way for patients and family caregivers to stay connected to their cancer care team during this public health emergency.”

What is Telemedicine?

The American Telemedicine Association defines telemedicine as “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status.” Telemedicine tools include the internet, email, smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, videoconferencing equipment and more.

Telemedicine may occur as a live, on-screen interaction between patient and physician. It can also be used to transmit reports and images to a physician who interprets the clinical data.

Studies have shown that telemedicine care is comparable in quality to in-person care, while delivering its own unique set of advantages: it’s convenient, improves access to care and decreases costs while maintaining patient satisfaction.

Baptist Health Care On Demand for Cancer Patients

Baptist Health’s telemedicine solution is the Baptist Health Care On Demand app, through which patients can virtually visit their Miami Cancer Institute physicians from any mobile device or PC. Miami Cancer Institute physicians are contacting their patients to incorporate telemedicine into their care plan. Patients can also contact the Institute’s Express Symptom Management service, which utilizes the Baptist Health Care On Demand platform. This service helps cancer patients deal with symptoms that require immediate attention. An advanced care provider will discuss symptoms with the patient and determine next steps. Other specialists such as nutritionists, pharmacists, mental health counselors and palliative care providers can also be consulted as needed through the app.

Miami Cancer Institute patients should set up their Baptist Health Care On Demand account using a special code provided by their physician’s scheduler or by their nurse navigator. The code will enable the patient to easily access the Express Symptom Management service.

What’s Next for Virtual Cancer Care?

“Telemedicine will never fully replace face-to-face visits that our cancer patients have with their care team; but, in many situations – like now, during the pandemic – virtual doctor visits can allow physicians to provide an extra level of safety and convenience for patients,” said Dr. Kalman. “We will continue to explore new applications of the telemedicine model to provide cancer care.”

Editor’s Note: Because every individual’s circumstance is different, please connect with your oncologist or medical provider for answers to specific questions related to your cancer care.

For the latest updates on Baptist Health South Florida and Miami Cancer Institute COVID-19 news, click here.

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