A new study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research suggests that cancer survivors find communicating with healthcare professionals over the phone and online beneficial to their health.

Since cancer treatments continue advancing, more people than ever have survived the disease worldwide. Specifically, in the UK, providers encourage patients to actively participate in their cancer management.

Telehealth is a relatively new way that patients can stay in contact with their healthcare professionals remotely. This approach offers an individualized treatment approach, with the patient and provider exchanging data without meeting in person, which may be difficult for some patients.

The use of telehealth, such as meeting or consultations via the phone or online, was found to be positively viewed by a majority of cancer survivors, according to the study. These patients reported that telehealth was a worthwhile experience.

The researchers found that patients appreciated the flexibility and convenience of telehealth, since they were able to interact with their physicians without significant disruption in their day-to-day lives.

Telehealth provides a perceived anonymity for patients, which was reported to reduce vulnerability. In certain cases, patients raised concerns that they would not have brought up in a traditional appointment, according to the study.

However, certain aspects of telehealth were not as popular among the patients. While some enjoyed the anonymity of telehealth, other patients felt the services were too impersonal because they were not able to meet their providers in person.

Some patients also reported that they were incapable of participating in telehealth due to hearing issues or a lack of computer literacy skills, according to the study.

The study, which was published on World Cancer Day, highlights the need to expand telehealth services for certain patients, but provides insights about why traditional appointments should also be kept.

“On World Cancer Day it is important that we raise awareness of this serious illness and consider the impact of alternative models of care on cancer survivors,” said researcher Anna Cox, PhD. “Our research found that cancer survivors wanted to get back to their daily lives as quickly as possible, telehealth helped facilitate this as it removed the often burdensome visits to hospital and enabled the integration of care into daily routines.”

Telehealth services have gained popularity among patients in rural America, where physicians are scarce, and transportation barriers prevent some from receiving care. Implementing these healthcare approaches for cancer survivors and other patients will likely result in improved outcomes and quality-of-life.

“For many cancer survivors, telehealth supported their independence and offered them reassurance. However, it is all down to personal preference, as some cancer survivors still preferred traditional methods of care,” Dr Cox concluded. “We are now living in a digital world and it is important that our care models take advantage of this in order to meet increased demands on the National Health Service. Involving a range of cancer survivors in the design of telehealth interventions is essential to their success.”