Remote access to healthcare – also known as telehealth or telemedicine – has become broadly used, especially by cancer patients. Diverse Health Hub is committed to exploring broad social determinants of health and to raising awareness about the roadblocks to equitable care. The truth is, not everyone is getting the same out of healthcare. As an avenue toward reducing inequities, the Patient Empowerment Network (PEN) and DHH have partnered to help foster change toward achieving equitable healthcare for all. One resource, the Prostate Cancer TelemEDucation Resource Center, helps improve prostate cancer patients’ and care partners’ familiarity with healthcare, and thus increase quality of care regardless of the COVID pandemic, geographical location, or racial disparities. The program focuses on the specific needs of Black men and other vulnerable communities to most effectively reduce the disparities that prevent access to equitable cancer treatment.
Here’s a summary view of the knowledge gained about telemedicine to help provide optimal care to prostate cancer patients and to aid in receiving optimal care no matter virus limitations, where patients live, and disparities by race.
Benefits and Limitations of Telemedicine Visits
There are both benefits and limitations of telemedicine visits. Some benefits to keep in mind about telehealth visits include:
- Active surveillance with lab tests every few months along with telemedicine visits are a good fit for low-risk prostate cancer.
- Patients with high-risk prostate cancer can increase the frequency of their telemedicine visits along with their recommended in-person treatments.
- Laboratory test results and prescription information can often be accessed in online patient portals.
- Remote monitoring is used to reduce the risk of infection for those with reduced immune system function, such as those with prostate cancer.
Telemedicine cannot handle all parts of the prostate cancer care toolkit, however. Some limitations of telehealth include:
- Prostate cancer treatments like radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy cannot be carried out via telemedicine.
- Virtual care visits may prevent equitable care access for some patients like those who lack access to a reliable Internet connection or to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
- Patients with low health literacy or limited English language fluency may face obstacles to utilizing telemedicine.