Tag Archive for: telehealth

Should Prostate Cancer Patients and Families Keep Using Telemedicine?

Should Prostate Cancer Patients and Families Keep Using Telemedicine? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

 Prostate cancer patients can still utilize telemedicine after COVID-19 restrictions have lessened. Dr. Heather Cheng from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance shares information about situations when telemedicine visits can be helpful for patients.

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Transcript:

Sherea Cary:

Dr. Cheng, now that telemedicine has broader applications, should prostate cancer patients and families keep telemedicine in their toolbox post-COVID?

Dr. Heather Cheng:

Yes, I actually think it’s one of the…telemedicine, in general, is one of the silver linings of COVID, I think from a member of the medical community, we had to learn…actually, I was already doing some telemedicine, limited telemedicine before COVID hit. But I do think for patients who have access to an Internet or a smartphone and are able to do their visits, it is really decreasing the burden on them in terms of how much time they have to take off work to go to their medical appointments, I think there are times when patients still have to go into clinic, for example, to get treatment, but a lot of times, at least for prostate cancer patients, they can have their PSA that prostate-specific antigen blood test, checked in a lab close to their home, and then you know, at a time that’s convenient to them. And then I can do a telehealth with them later, so that they don’t have to take as much time off work. And so, I think in some cases it’s really, really made it easier for patients, although there are still times when we do need to see them in person, it’s just really nice to have that as an option.

So, I really do think that’s a really good thing, and I hope that the medical community and patients can continue to benefit from that. The other time when it’s helpful is for second opinions and consultation, so this is also really important for patients to know about it, is the first time they’re making a big decision about their treatment and they’re not 100 percent sure maybe they want to get us that an opinion, just to make sure that other doctors agree and that they get another chance to hear the treatment options explained in a different way. And I see a lot of patients for second opinions just to kind of get more confidence, maybe they’ll still decide to get treatment with their local oncologist, because it’s easier closer to home and less disruptive than to come to see us in Seattle. But it still gives them more confidence that they’re going down the right treatment path, so I think telemedicine also makes that a lot easier for patients as well.

November 2021 Digital Health Roundup

Fifty years of research have led to a lot of innovations. Technological advances mean that doctors are better able to monitor our health, and health and fitness apps can motivate us toward a healthier lifestyle, but studies show the benefits aren’t always equitable. In addition, more technology means more compromised data. Experts are warning governments to tighten up regulations, while others are asking for expanded and permanent access to telehealth.

Expanded Telehealth Coverage

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to extend the Covid-19 public health emergency through the end of 2022, if not longer, reports healthcareitnews.com. The public health emergency has allowed for the expanded coverage of telehealth, but it is uncertain how and when the expanded coverage will end. The ATA is hoping HHS will give patients ample notification about the future of telehealth. While there has been support for the expanded telehealth rules to become permanent, Congress has not acted on that. The ATA is concerned that patients, who have become dependent on telehealth during the pandemic, will abruptly lose access to care if the public health emergency is not expanded, giving Congress time to put permanent policies in place. Read more about the ATA’s request to HHS here.

Digital Health Data

More access to care is good, but leading independent experts are warning countries to protect digital health data in order to prevent medical inequities and human rights abuses, reports ft.com. The group of experts produced a report that lists the benefits of telehealth, but also provided guidance for governments to use that would protect healthcare consumers from misuse of health data. Recommendations include increased regulations to protect children and providing equitable access through digital infrastructure. Learn more here.

The threat of healthcare data breaches is real. In 2021 more than 40 million patient records were compromised, reports healthcareitnews.com. The breaches can paralyze networks and lead to disruption of care. Find a list of 2021’s ten largest data breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services here.

Health Apps

Technology-based health apps are more beneficial to people with higher socio-economic status, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that middle and higher socio-economic health and exercise app users achieved a higher level of physical activity while users with lower socio-economic status received no clear benefits from using the apps. Researchers suggest that the findings indicate that further use and development should take into account the needs of users with lower socio-economic status to prevent inequalities among users. Find out more here.

Remote Monitoring

Doctors at Kentucky Cardiology in Lexington, Kentucky found that patients weren’t always keeping accurate records of their blood pressure at home, so they looked to technology for a solution, reports healthcareitnews.com. They contracted with a remote patient monitoring technology that automatically recorded the patient’s blood pressure results. Staff members were able to monitor the readings and contact the patient if they saw a reading that was unusual. Staff members were also notified if a patient was not taking their blood pressure. In those cases, staff members were able to contact the patient and review the how to do the readings or troubleshoot any issues. The program has been a big success and grown quickly and reached 86 percent patient engagement. Learn more about the remote monitoring program here.

National Cancer Act

Fifty years ago, the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971 enabled fifty years of groundbreaking research and discoveries for the treatment of cancer. Many were technological innovations being highlighted by cancer.gov in celebration of the anniversary. The technologies include:

  • CRISPR, a gene-editing tool
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Telehealth
  • Cryo-EM, short for cryo-electron microscopy, a process that generates high-resolution images of how molecules behave
  • Infinium Assay, a process that analyzes genetic variations used in cancer research as well as a variety of other applications
  • Robotic Surgery

Learn more about each of these technological innovations and the National Cancer Act of 1971 here. Also, look for more about the National Cancer Act of 1971 in this month’s upcoming Notable News.

How the Physician Shortage May Affect People With Cancer

Cancer is a journey that no one wants to take. Yet every day, research is yielding new insights into this fierce adversary, technology is equipping patients with powerful new weapons with which to fight, and treatments are emerging which are boosting both survival rates and patients’ overall quality of life.

Because of this, cancer patients are more informed and more empowered than ever before. Unfortunately, however, there are still things about the cancer journey that are outside of the patients’ control. Among these is the persistent, and worsening, physician shortage.

Origins and Impact of the Physician Shortage

Health leaders, healthcare providers, and patients alike have long recognized that the shortage of primary and specialized care physicians is real, enduring, and detrimental to patients and care workers alike. Experts predict that, in the coming years, the field of oncology is likely to be especially adversely affected by the lack of cancer physicians.

According to recent estimates, the number of patients requiring chemotherapy treatment is expected to rise from 9.8 million to more than 15 million by the year 2040. But even as the demand for oncologists is predicted to surge in coming years, the supply of practicing specialists continues to shrink as current practitioners reach retirement age and leave the field.

The Impact on Cancer Patients

In the face of a physician shortage fueled by rising retirement rates and surging demand, cancer patients may expect some significant changes in how they receive treatment.

The Increasing Role of Nurses

As the physician shortage worsens, nurses are increasingly stepping in to fill the care gap. Not only are nurse practitioners gaining the authority to provide comprehensive patient care, but many nursing specialists including Doctors of Nursing Practice (DNP) are coordinating clinical practices, providing nursing training, and conducting advanced research to optimize patient care.

As healthcare providers turn to high-level roles other than that of the MD, cancer patients should expect to receive care from an array of practitioners, including experts in nursing practices. Cancer patients will benefit from this by having more options to tailor their treatment plans to their particular needs, goals, and values.

For example, DNPs are often strongly connected to clinical research. For patients who are also interested in participating in clinical trials, a DNP can empower patients by offering guidance, support, and access to experimental treatments that might otherwise not have been available through more traditional care methods.

The Ascendancy of Telehealth

In addition to receiving significant amounts of care from nurses and related specialists, the physician shortage is likely to also change cancer treatment through a greater emphasis on telehealth. Though telehealth long predates the outbreak of COVID-19, its efficacy as a treatment tool for the most vulnerable patient populations was truly revealed during the height of the pandemic.

For example, at-risk patients were able to access their healthcare team through virtual consultations from the safety of their own homes without risking exposure to the virus. During this process, many realized that telehealth could streamline healthcare processes and reduce pressure on the overall healthcare system.

As the physician shortage worsens, the healthcare system will likely turn increasingly to telehealth to ensure consistency and quality of care while driving system efficiency. In addition, technologies such as health apps and remote patient monitoring devices will allow healthcare teams to maintain a close watch over patients whenever and wherever needed, reducing the need for hospitalizations and clinical consultations.

The Impact of COVID-19

In addition to the rising tide of planned retirements, the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on healthcare providers are likely to contribute to the physician shortage. As new coronavirus variants emerge and the pandemic worsens, physicians are at significant risk of burnout due both to physical and emotional fatigue.

In light of this, cancer patients will likely notice an increased prioritization of infectious disease prevention in their treatment plan. For example, physicians are increasingly finding themselves battling vaccine hesitancy. For doctors who have dedicated their lives and careers to caring for cancer patients, misconceptions regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and the loss of life such misinformation may lead to, can take a devastating toll on healthcare workers.

As a result, cancer patients are likely to find that vaccinations and boosters are strongly encouraged by healthcare providers as an essential standard of care. As vaccine acceptance rates grow, particularly regarding the COVID vaccine, not only will patients be more protected, but the psychological burden of care and risk of attrition for healthcare providers will also ease.

The Takeaway

The physician shortage is impacting patients and healthcare providers alike. However, cancer patients are likely to feel the impacts of this shortage most strongly. As a result of the shortfall, approaches to care will likely change to rely on specialty practitioners and telehealth technologies, and disease prevention will increasingly become a priority.

October 2021 Digital Health Roundup

The popularity of telemedicine is being embraced by insurance companies, and for now, the best place to identify skin cancer is still at the dermatologist’s office. Patients are concerned about privacy threats when it comes to technology in healthcare, and it turns out they have good reason to be. Fortunately, there are things being done to address the issue.

Privacy of Medical Records

A new survey shows that patients are concerned about privacy of medical records and the use of facial recognition technology in healthcare, reports upi.com. A large portion of the survey respondents perceive facial recognition technology as a privacy threat, but the use of the technology in healthcare has increased over the past few years as a way to prevent medical errors and provide extra security. With nearly 60 percent of respondents saying they are concerned about the security of these technologies, researchers are tasked with gaining public trust by increasing protections of healthcare information. Find more information here.

It seems that patients have reason to be concerned. Ransomware attacks are having negative effects on patient care, reports fiercehealthcare.com. A new report shows that ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations can lead to longer stays, delays in care leading to poor outcomes, and increases in patient transfers. The ransomware attacks are also linked to increased mortality rates. The report emphasizes the importance of increasing cybersecurity in healthcare to protect patients. Learn more about the report findings here.

Cybersecurity

Recognizing the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in healthcare, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a best practices document as a resource for the healthcare industry, reports healthcareitnews.com. The document focuses on developing a cybersecurity communication strategy and offers aspects to consider in the event of a security breach. The FDA also plans to address medical device vulnerabilities so that patients who are dependent on medical devices will know what kinds of questions to ask their healthcare providers regarding the security of their devices. Get more information here and see the FDA best practices document here.

The U.S. Government is also investing in the future of information technology in public health, reports thehealthcaretechnologyreport.com. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has an initiative that will help to develop the health information technology workforce and will help to increasing the number of workers in the field from underrepresented communities. With funding from the American Rescue Plan, ten universities that serve diverse communities have cooperative agreements to build up the healthcare technology workforce over the next four years. Learn more about the initiative and the ten institutions that are participating here.

Skin Cancer App Fails

A setback for healthcare technology occurred recently when a flaw in a direct-to-consumer app used to detect skin cancer was identified at a European annual meeting of dermatology, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that the app, which is available in Europe, incorrectly classified more than 60 percent of benign lesions as cancerous, and almost 18 percent of Merkel cell carcinomas and almost 23 percent of melanomas as benign. The problem appears to be that the app depends on available images to determine the status of a lesion, but there are not enough images of rare skin cancers available for better accuracy. Find more information here.

Telemedicine

If you love virtual visits to the doctor, you are in luck! Insurers are now offering new types of health coverage specifically for telemedicine, reports modernhealthcare.com. Some insurance companies have plans that require online visits for nonemergency care. The plans tend to have lower premiums and patients select a doctor for their virtual visits who can refer patients to in-person doctors within the network if needed. However, there is some concern that virtual care as the primary means of care may not be ideal. The concern is that things might get missed, like early signs of disease that a doctor would not be able to pick up on through a virtual visit. Learn more about the new type of insurance plans here.

Breast Cancer Telemedicine Tips: How to Make the Most of Your Visit

We all have acknowledged that the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the use of telehealth services. You should have a choice on who you feel comfortable with on your healthcare team and now telemedicine grants that choice to many populations.

Newly diagnosed breast cancer patients living in a rural area or farther from major academic health centers are now able to obtain second opinions from experts without travel and with minimal exposure to COVID-19. The quality of a televisit does not differ from an in-person visit. Although you’ll be without a physical exam, your provider can still prescribe medications and send you for various tests/blood work.

Tips

Know When to Use Telehealth

If you are unsure that your chief complaint requires a telehealth visit versus an in-person visit, ask. You can avoid an unnecessary trip or multiple appointments.

Find Out What Telehealth System Will Be Used

Will your appointment be via phone call, or will there be video? Is there an application you should download, or is it accessible via your web browser? Is this televisit covered by your insurance? Don’t be afraid to overprepare. In the end, it saves time and benefits everyone involved in the appointment.

Connect With a Plan

Telemedicine may seem less formal causing us to not be as prepared as we would for an in-person visit. Write your questions and concerns down. Just because you’re connecting virtually does not make your appointment time any less important.

Bring a Loved One

At first thought, you may see no reason why someone should accompany you to your telehealth visit; however, you still need that support. It’s okay to have someone in the room or even on camera with you. Your provider will not mind and will encourage it. Many times, emotions are high in the exam room, and we hear what our providers are saying, but we’re not really listening. Having support at your telehealth appointment ensures that you won’t be overwhelmed with trying to remember every detail. The best part is that with telehealth your loved one can join from almost anywhere in the world!

Stay Informed

Telehealth extends beyond appointments. It also includes patient portals. If you have a quick question for any member of your healthcare team, more than likely there is a system that you can use to quickly contact someone. Your patient portal can also give you easy access to results of blood tests, urinalysis, and more.

Telehealth services are likely here to stay. As you enter survivorship of your breast cancer care, annual visits can be maintained via telehealth. While in survivorship, you’ll most likely no longer be seeing multiple doctors on a regular basis for your care. With telehealth, you are able to maintain your health with one provider during survivorship without taking time off of work, finding childcare and/or sacrificing travel plans. As telehealth services continue to develop and to improve, the future of breast cancer care will steadily become more accessible.

Check out the following programs in our Breast Cancer TelemEDucation Resource Center:

What Role Does Telemedicine Play in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Care?

What Role Does Telemedicine Play in Acute Myeloid Leukemia Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

In acute myeloid leukemia (AML) care, how can telemedicine be used? Watch as expert Dr. Catherine Lai shares different situations where telemedicine has served as a helpful tool and instances when in-person visits are optimal for patient care.

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What Role Does a Multidisciplinary Team Play in AML Care? 


Transcript:

Sasha Tanori:

My care team suggested a clinical trial for a new drug focusing on improving my lung function, fortunately, my lungs improved on their own. Dr. Lai, not every AML patient is offered a clinical trial as a care option, what advice do you have for AML patients who are seeking clinical trials, and what’s the best way to locate one?

Dr. Catherine Lai:

Yeah, so this is an area, a huge area of unmet need, I would say in general, across all oncology trials, and I think less than 10 percent of the patient population is on trials, there’s a lot of stigmas around clinical trials and are you getting…are you getting a drug that we don’t know what’s going to work, am I being…am I being tested? In oncology, I would say for the most part, we try to make trials where you’re being measured to the standard, so you’re getting the standard plus, or we’re trying not to…just in terms of doing what’s best for the patient, in general, I don’t offer trials to patients where I don’t think that there’s scientifically a rationale for those drugs, but to answer your question, the best place to look is on clinicaltrials.gov. That’s cumbersome. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, I can give you a lot of unnecessary information. There are a lot of other resources out there, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a great resource. I know that they have online or people that you can talk to in terms of helping you direct specific clinical trials, I know depending on where you live in the country, there are other local new chapters, oncology chapters that we have that can help patients find…

And have access to clinical trials, and then I think the biggest thing is just if a patient is with the community oncologist, having enough education to say, can I have a referral to an academic institution where they can ask those questions and get that information, and local community oncologists are fantastic, but they see everything, they see breast cancer, they see one cancer where the academic centers were specialized where all I see is leukemia and MDS kind of acute leukemias. So, it’s just a different set of knowledge.

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Lung Cancer Patient Shares Why Telemedicine Should Be a Long-Term Tool

Lung Cancer Patient Shares Why Telemedicine Should Be a Long-Term Tool from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Can lung cancer patients look to telemedicine as a long-term tool in their care? Watch as lung cancer patient Jill explains how telehealth has been a benefit for her care and how it can serve as a benefit for other patients.

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Transcript:

Jill:

In the future, I hope that telemedicine plays a really significant role in my care and in the care of others as well, so I would really like to not have to travel to my cancer clinic for every single appointment. For some of them, I definitely want to go. There are times when we want to look our doctor or nurse in the eye and really have strong, stronger communication, but for the most part, I would rather not have to travel and I live really close to my cancer center, so I always think about people who live farther away, and there are so many people who travel hours, there are people who travel days to get to their appointments, there are people who have to leave their communities and be, away for an extended period of time, and that’s not something that I would want to do, especially when we’re in a going counter treatment, we can feel so alone and fragile, and I would rather that people had more support and other people with them could stay at home, could stay in their communities and just have a call and their people could be with them if they wanted it during the call, they can all gather around and listen to.

And I think it matters so much. It’s not just convenience, it’s better care for people to have their loved ones near them, that’s one thing we’ve learned during COVID, even more so that it’s not good to be alone. It’s good to have our loved ones near us supporting us, and so as much as possible, if we can keep telemedicine as an option to use for the times when it doesn’t really matter if we’re in person or not, let’s make that choice, let’s make second opinions available let’s work out whatever permissions need to be in place for people to get care across regional lines or state lines, let’s get those things in place so that we can provide the best care possible, and let’s always be thinking about our most vulnerable people, and those are usually the people in the rural and remote regions, the people with a really hard cancer diagnosis, the people who are feeling alone and vulnerable, let’s take it, care of them.

Lung Cancer Patient Shares Why Telemedicine Is an Important Tool

Lung Cancer Patient Shares Why Telemedicine Is an Important Tool from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How can telemedicine serve as a vital tool in lung cancer care? Watch as stage IV lung cancer patient Jill shares how telehealth has helped her during the COVID-19 pandemic and how she views it in the future of her care.

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Lung Cancer Patient Shares Why Telemedicine Should Be a Long-Term Tool

Lung Cancer Patient Shares Why Telemedicine Should Be a Long-Term Tool

 

Transcript:

Jill:

I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer back in 2013, and prior to the COVID pandemic, I had never had a telemedicine appointment, but now that I’ve had quite a few.

I think they’re such an important tool in lung cancer care, especially during a pandemic, when they protect us from exposure to various potential infections, not just COVID, but it can protect us from illness, so that’s terrific. But also, they’re really convenient, I just have a quick 10-minute appointment, there is no waiting in the waiting room, there’s no traveling to the clinic, which is…I’ll be honest, that’s not a very big inconvenience for me because I live quite close to my cancer center, but especially for people in rural and remote regions, what a game changer it can be to just be able to talk on the phone or perhaps have a video chat with a health care provider. So, I think that telemedicine is a very important tool in lung cancer care, and I hope that it will continue, maybe not 100 percent of the time, but there will still be available to him after the pandemic is over.

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MPN Patient Shares Advice for Making the Most of Telemedicine Visit

MPN Patient Shares Advice for Making the Most of Telemedicine Visit from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Myeloproliferative neoplasm patient Debbie has had the opportunity to utilize telemedicine in her care. Watch as she shares the pros and cons of telehealth methods in her blood cancer monitoring and her advice to other patients for optimizing virtual visits.

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Transcript:

Debbie:

I think there is definitely a place for telemedicine in our care. It has enabled us to, or enable me to keep in touch with my hematologist and to understand where my blood counts currently are. What I would also say is, it’s…that there are positives and negatives. I think that the positive of it is the fact that I’ve got a regular update on what my blood counts actually are. I think the negatives of it can be, is that it is quite easy just to move the conversation quite quickly forward. It’s easier for me to just say, everything’s all okay. Thank you for updating me over the telephone, then it is perhaps if I was actually sat in front of somebody.

I think that the challenges it presents is that personal touch, is that feeling of being able to have a one-to-one relationship with your consultant. I don’t think you have that over the telephone.

So, some of the tips that I would share are that you keep in regular contact with your hematologist, you keep regular information on your blood counts, but you keep in a very, very safe environment. You do keep in a safe environment, and that I think is something that’s enormously important. A tip that I would probably give is that make sure that in between your appointments, you do what you would do regularly on a face-to-face and make notes of the things that you want to talk about…because I quite often put the phone down and think, I wish I had said that when I go to the hospital, I will have my notes in front of me and I put them on the table, and I’ll cross-check them with the hematologist at the time, I tend not to do that on the telephone, and perhaps I should, so I would definitely recommend that you treat the tele appointment exactly the same as you would the hospital appointment.

How Has the Pandemic Reshaped Head and Neck Cancer Care?

How Has the Pandemic Reshaped Head and Neck Cancer Care? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

How has head and neck cancer care changed from the COVID-19 pandemic? Watch as expert Dr. Samantha Tam from Henry Ford Health System shares situations for in-person vs. telemedicine visits.

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Transcript:

Samantha Tam, MD, FRCSC, MPH: 

COVID-19 has significantly changed how healthcare is delivered to patients with head and neck cancer. Traditionally head and neck cancer care has been delivered in-person visits because patients with head and neck cancers are often difficult to examine on a virtual platform, and on top of that, many patients have difficulties with communication, just given the ramifications of the disease. However, with COVID-19, we had a conscious effort to shift a lot of our care from in-person to virtual visits, and the area of telemedicine has been therefore greatly expanded in patients with head and neck cancer diagnosis. How head and neck cancer patients have been able to utilize telemedicine has been varied according to whether or not these patients are coming in for new diagnoses for follow-up care, for post-op diagnoses or for care during their treatment. And I feel that virtual care is really complementary as opposed to a substitute for patients with head and neck cancer because certainly there are innate difficulties in communication through the virtual platforms, as well as innate difficulties with examining patients adequately through the virtual platform. 

That being said, there’s a lot of care, for example, with allied health professionals, or surveillance care that can be completed on a virtual platform that may use healthcare delivery to patients that may not be able to access in-person care on a regular basis 

August 2021 Digital Health Roundup

There is an app for everything, and healthcare is no exception. Digital health apps are big business, but maybe they could be better utilized. The way we use telehealth is evolving rapidly, and it varies from state to state, but could that change at some point? Getting information about your health is important, but in many cases when you’re seeking information, you end up finding that there is no shortage of misinformation.

Healthcare Misinformation

Be careful where you get your information about cancer treatments, reports medicalxpress.com. A new study found that misinformation about health conditions is becoming more and more common, especially on social media sites. The study looked at 200 of the most popular cancer treatment articles found on social media, and discovered that one third of them include misinformation, and that those articles get more attention and engagement than the articles with evidence-based information. The misinformation is not only misleading, but it can also potentially be harmful to patients and negatively affect patient outcomes. One way to avoid misinformation is to use trusted sites like Patient Empowerment Network’s powerfulpatients.org, and it’s always important to talk to your trusted care provider about any treatment information you find online. Find out more about the study here.

Access to Telehealth

As special Covid-19 legislation expires in many states, access to telehealth is less certain, reports healthcaredive.com. During the Covid-19 pandemic many states used waivers to allow medical professionals to provide telehealth care to patients in other states. The waivers have already expired in some states like Florida, Alaska, New York, and Minnesota, but other states like Arizona are passing legislation to make the telehealth waivers permanent. Advocates for making permanent changes to telehealth access say it would help with staffing shortages, providing access to healthcare in rural areas, and maintaining doctor/patient relationships. It can also be beneficial to those who need to see specialty providers not available in their home states. However, because medical licensing is regulated at the state level, it’s difficult for doctors who want to practice across state lines. As the lawmakers continue to try to make telemedicine available to those who need it, some are saying a federal medical licensing system might be in order, or a system of reciprocity between states where out-of-state licenses would be automatically recognized. It will be interesting to see what permanent telehealth regulations result. Find out more here.

While many say telehealth increases access to care, there are others who say it could do just the opposite. Check out forbes.com to read an opinion on how to make sure telehealth doesn’t end up being a contributor to health inequities here.

Health Apps

There is no shortage of digital health apps, reports mobihealthnews.com. A recent report discovered that of the 350,000 digital health apps available 47 percent are geared toward monitoring specific diseases or health conditions, such as diabetes. The report also found that the effectiveness of health apps is being studied more often and that 90,000 new health apps were introduced in 2020. Not only are there a lot of digital health apps, but they are a big money industry as well. So far 2021 is showing record-breaking numbers in digital health investment. Learn more here.

While health apps are growing in number and popularity, they aren’t being fully utilized, reports medicalxpress.com. Typically, data and information that users collect and record about their health doesn’t connect to the patient’s medical chart. Healthcare providers then don’t have the opportunity to monitor the information or provide feedback about the data. However, a new study showed that patients with high blood pressure saw health benefits when they monitored their condition using an app that was accessible to their healthcare providers The study found that the typical patient had a reduction in systolic blood pressure. Researchers hope that eventually patients and providers can use mobile apps to better treat chronic health conditions and provide better health outcomes. Read more here.

What Opportunities Does Telemedicine Present for Breast Cancer Patients?

What Opportunities Does Telemedicine Present For Breast Cancer Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Does telemedicine present certain advantages for breast cancer patients? Expert Dr. Regina Hampton from Luminis Health Doctors Community Hospital shares benefits that she’s seen in the breast cancer community and her perspective about the future of telemedicine. 

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Transcript:

Dr. Regina Hampton:

I think telemedicine has been great for the breast cancer community. I found in my personal practice, I do quite a number of visits and conversations prior to starting the first treatment. So, what’s nice is because we know the patient may be seeing several different providers, I do my initial visit and then the subsequent visits leading up to, say, surgery, we do by telemedicine. And what’s great about that is it allows us to dial in another support person, you can usually dial in at least two or three more people who can be a part of the conversation and hear the discussion, it also allows the patient to really…if they’re working full-time to be able to save that time, because maybe there’s another provider that they have to go see or they have to get their pre-op work-up. So it really just provides more access. And then if they just have a simple question, they don’t have to make a whole visit, take off half of their day and travel. We can either jump on the phone or jump on a quick video call, so I think it really has just opened up for not only the patients, but also the providers, and just given more access to care and really allows, I think us as providers to really meet people where they are. I’ve had people who’ve traveled or they had to go take care of a sick loved one, and we could jump on a call to do our office visit, and they could still do the things that they needed to do that may have come up unexpectedly. So, I think telemedicine is here to stay, and I think it’s only going to grow and grow and really provide more patients with access to providers. 

How Can Lung Cancer Patients Ensure Quality Care No Matter Location?

How Can Lung Cancer Patients Ensure Quality Care No Matter Location? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Now that lung cancer patients have access to in-person and telemedicine visits, how can they ensure quality care no matter location? Experts Dr. Nicole Rochester and Dr. Olugbenga Okusanyashare their advice on maximum travel times to in-person providers, when telemedicine visits make sense, and how to ensure you get the best fit for you as a patient. 

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Transcript:

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

You mentioned telehealth, and we know that one of the barriers to receiving care, and you’ve indicated that in terms of having access to a multi-disciplinary team, having access to thoracic surgeons as opposed to general surgeons. So, we know that that is impacted by where we live, and that often our geographic location can actually be a barrier to the receipt of quality care, so I’d love for you to just talk a little bit about how patients who may be in more remote locations can make sure that they are also receiving appropriate care for their lung cancer. 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

Yeah, I think this is a very substantive challenge, I think this is one of the holes in healthcare, there are these regions in the country where you just are not going to have access to any number of surgical sub-specialists or radiation oncologists, or lung cancer specific oncologists. I think that is a really big challenge. I think we have actually learned through the pandemic that the physical barriers really are not the reason to not get the best care, so I think those patients should be exquisitely interested in telehealth and in phone calls, and I think most healthcare systems now, because the reimbursements have been approved for telehealth and actually now built infrastructure to support it as an ongoing concept. So now, if you are a patient that’s in Arizona and you want to talk to a doctor who’s in New Jersey, you can do that, you can make that happen. If you find someone, you Google them, you find a friend in that area who knows someone, you can call their office and say, “I want to have a telehealth visit.” And as long as you have broadband Internet and a phone, you can do it. You can have that conversation. 

So, I would advocate for people to really make sure that you at least feel like people in the sort of local regional area that you can perhaps get to maybe two, three hours away. But you can imagine a scenario where you can get there, you can try and establish some level of care and some level of rapport with them. I think that’s something that has really opened, has been one of the few good things to come out of the pandemic. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

I was going to say the exact same thing. That is one…there haven’t been a lot of positive things, but that certainly is one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic, is this surge, and it’s not that we already had the capability, but it certainly was not being used to its maximum capacity. I appreciate that. So, speaking of telemedicine and COVID, I think one of the challenges that patients and often care partners have is understanding when is a telemedicine or telehealth visit appropriate versus when do you actually need to go see that doctor in-person, so…can you help clarify that? 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

Yeah, so I think in general, even if you start with the telehealth is, I think there’s very little downside to telehealth for almost anyone in general, because a lot of the information can be garnered from the patient record, from their scans. I think in general; it gives you 85 percent of what you need out of that interaction, and it may be more convenient for the patient, a lot of times it’s actually more convenient for the doctors, doctors have now found ways to work from home. They do have to have their clinic from home, it’s a much more relaxed environment than more efficient. I think there are times like for instance, I have to make decisions about offering surgery to patients who I consider to be moderate or high risk, I think there is a benefit and having that patient come and see me in the office because they have to somehow pass what we call the eyeball test, and that is a little bit of where this disparity comes in in lung cancer surgery, because it depends on whose eyeball is looking at you, making your determination about what they think is going to happen with you in surgery. 

I remember…actually one of my favorite patients ever. She had data that did not look like she would tolerate surgery, everything about her data did not look favorable. And I saw her, I remember seeing her in-person, and you could see the spark in her eye and energy that she had, and I said, “You know what, we’re going to do it.” And she did great, she did phenomenally well. And that is a case where if you’re in the population of patients that may be slightly more moderate, slightly more high-risk, and you need someone to really look you in the eye and you say, “I’m going to do what it takes to get through this.” I think that’s the patient where the in-touch, in-person visit really is that extra touch that can be benefited. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

Wow, I love what you said about the spark in her eye and also how you connected that to health disparities, and I don’t know the race or ethnicity of the patient that you’re describing, but we certainly know that that makes a difference, and I just wonder if that had been a different physician, would they have seen that same spark? And I think it just goes back to what we were talking about earlier, and the importance of finding a physician or health care provider with whom you connect, someone that actually respects you, someone that listens to you and sees you as a whole person. So, the fact that you were willing to go beyond that data on her chart, which screamed, This is a poor surgical candidate, met her in-person, and something about her let you know that she was going to be okay. 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

And that’s why in medicine and surgery are still art at the end of the day, it’s still an art. You make decisions, best informed decisions, but there’s a lot of it that is still really special and mystical in a way. And I think having that in-person interactions will let you practice that and it’s exactly what you said, you want to have a really nice relationship with the physician, especially anyone that’s going to be doing anything that might be invasive or dangerous because for the most part, you meet someone for 45 minutes and then you sign up for what could be a life-threatening event. So, you, the physician and the patient should feel really good about that interaction and whatever that energy is, it’s really important, it’s a little bit kind of sacred, I think, and I think it’s really valuable to invest in that if you don’t like the surgeon, you really don’t feel like it’s a good fit or you don’t like your oncologist, find someone else. You’ll do better in the long run, for sure. 

Dr. Nicole Rochester: 

That is so incredibly important. I agree, 100 percent. So much of healing is beyond just the nuts and bolts of the medical care that we provide, or in your case, the surgical care, there’s so much more to that, that’s not really well studied, but that relationship and that connection is key. 

Dr. Olugbenga Okusanya: 

Critical, and that’s not to say that necessarily the person has to be like the warmest, friendliest, the most fun person you ever met, some people prefer a more yes ma’am, no ma’am, clear-cut, well-defined boundaries of a relationship. Some people prefer a big hug and a laugh and a joke. So if you’re getting what you need, that’s exactly what you need. And if you’re not getting what you need, you should think about your other options