COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerating Virtual Cancer Care

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Study finds the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically improved the quality and convenience of virtual cancer care.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has accelerated virtual cancer care quality, convenience, and cost savings, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 1.88 million deaths and there have been over 86.4 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Due to the pandemic, many aspects of life, such as work and school, have gone virtual. Medical care is no exception, with many appointments moving online.

The study, which was conducted between March 23, 2020, and May 22, 2020, out of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, Canada, included 22,085 patients. Virtual care began at Princess Margaret 12 days after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020.

The study found that 64% of health care providers and 85% of patients indicated that the quality of care was better or comparable to in-person visits. Additionally, 66% of both groups indicated they were very likely or likely to recommend virtual care for future appointments, according to the study. In total, 22,085 virtual visits occurred during the study period, which accounted for an average 68% of the daily clinical visits. The overall cost savings was more than $3 million, according to the study.

"Virtual care became a safety net for patients," said lead researcher Alejandro Berlin, MD, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret, in a press release. "It was reassuring for patients during the uncertainty of COVID-19. Their care team was still there for them, but in a different way. For the future, we aim to examine what criteria—in addition to clinical—make this a good or even preferred option for select patients."

REFERENCE:

COVID-19 accelerates cancer virtual care with quality, convenience and cost savings [News Release] January 7, 2021; Toronto, Canada. Accessed January 8, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/uhn-cac010721.php.

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