Clinical Quality

Care through a new lens: a look at oncology

May 27, 2020

Care through a new lens: a look at oncology

Last week, Jon talked about how health systems can, and must, see virtual care as a part of their long term success. Virtual care isn’t a temporary fix—it’s a longstanding solution. 

But what does that solution actually look like in practice? For some, this can be tough to visualize. Integrating virtual care into clinical specialties that have historically relied on in-person care, requires a new lens. 

Let’s look at oncology, for example, and the multi-faceted benefits virtual care can offer to both cancer patients and providers. 

Introducing the Continuum of Care

Virtual care isn’t about replacing in-person care, it’s about giving patients the right care when they need it. In oncology, much like other disciplines, the type of care needed evolves over time.  

New oncology patients will need access to scans, labs, and a dialogue with their provider. While virtual care can’t replace these in-person requirements, it can still help with the intake process for new patients. Processes and clinical workflows can be put in place to help health systems prioritize patients. Giving patients that need care the most urgently, quicker access to care. As well as ensuring that all appropriate testing is completed to maximize the new patient consultative visit.  

Patients ‘on treatment’ can utilize virtual visits to ensure side effects are managed appropriately, as well as provide access to other supportive care services that otherwise require an in-person visit. Once cancer patients have finished treatment, virtual care can also provide a convenient option for regular and routine follow-up with their care team.

Improving the Patient Experience 

Patients receiving treatment, whether it be chemotherapy or radiation, are typically left feeling very unwell. The task of getting up and physically going to the clinic can be very challenging for these patients and may be putting them at additional risk for infection while traveling in public spaces. This is especially true during a pandemic, but this always rings true for immunosuppressed cancer patients. 

Intelligent interviews and the ability to step-up to a video visit from asynchronous care can be used to keep at-risk patients from going into the hospital or clinic, if they don’t need to. Medications and treatment plans can be prescribed virtually—giving both the patient and provider peace of mind.

Increasing Efficiency 

When looking at healthcare as a whole, there’s an overwhelming demand for efficiency—for both providers and patients. 

In 2020, roughly 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States. In addition to this, there’s a rapidly growing population of cancer survivors who will also need ongoing care.

Yet provider time is limited. To date, there are approximately 20,473 certified oncologists in the United States. An aging workforce of specialists is expected to create huge shortfalls in the number of available providers.

Using virtual care means that patients can get more touch points with their doctor, and not every visit has to be a video visit. Instead of waiting for doctor appointments (virtually or in-person) every 1-3 weeks, intelligent interviews can be sent as needed to check on side effects, nutritional intake, fever, wound healing, etc. The efficiency of an asynchronous visit means that the majority of people can have reassurance and the few patients who need to be stepped up into a video visit or in-person care can do so.

It’s Time to Change

When it comes to virtual care, adoption isn’t an option. It’s a necessity in order to meet increasingly high patient volumes and optimize provider work time—especially for patients who so critically need it. 

The Fabric platform can be implemented to create the following care experiences for oncology patients:

  • Intelligent interviews 
    • Used to determine if an in-person visit is needed based on symptoms being experienced
    • Post-chemo treatment check-in point
    • Medication review 
  • Augmented video visits (intelligent interview + video)
    • Review patient interview responses ahead of time and can check in with patients and address any concerns
  • Lab orders (a virtual boarding pass that gives patients front-of-the-line access to in-clinic lab tests.)
    • Ordering tests and labs as needed
  • Multi-party video visits 
    • Include out of town family members or interpreters or caregivers
    • Mental health and/or education: meditation lessons, stress relief tips, chemo education and explanation

Health systems must start thinking ahead and being prepared for what the future of healthcare will look like. Simply implementing video visits is the status quo—we have to start changing our methods in order to meet our patients, and providers, where they’re at.


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