Doctor on telehealth visit with patient
(Credit: Yoshiyoshi Hirokawa/Getty Images)

Patients felt more fulfilled via telemedicine rather than in-person physician visits for accessing care and provider responsiveness, according to a large new study of cancer patients. 

Researchers from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa analyzed survey responses from 39,000 cancer patients, including 33,000 who had in-person visits and 5,950 patients who had telemedicine visits. Responses were compared from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020 through June 2021.

When it came to access to care, 76% of patients surveyed were highly satisfied with telemedicine visits, compared with just 62.5% of those who had inpatient visits. Nearly 91% of those using telemedicine ranked high satisfaction with the response and amount of concern shown by the care provider, compared with 84% with in-person visits.   

Researchers say the survey results indicate patients liked the flexibility of telemedicine as well as the reduced cost of travel, parking and missed work that typically comes with in-person visits. The study was published in the May issue of JNCCN — Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

“Telemedicine visits can be incorporated in patients’ day-to-day schedule so they can complete their appointments before or after work, or during a break. It gives them flexibility and ultimately increases access,” said senior researcher Philippe E. Spiess, MD, MS, Moffitt Cancer Center, who also is a member of the NCCN Board of Directors, Guidelines Steering Committee, and vice-chair of the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Bladder/Penile Cancers, in a news release.

Many organizations and providers were forced to adopt telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results of the study suggest that the patient experience was equal to or better for those who used telemedicine, the researchers said.

“As care providers, we should be leading the discussion and advocating on our patients’ behalf for both cross-state licensing and continued reimbursements for telemedicine visits,” Spiess said. 

The researchers said oncology offices and clinicians should consider telemedicine as an option for cancer patient visits when appropriate. They noted, however, that not all oncology visits should be virtual, particularly when patients must be seen for in-person tests and other cancer treatments.