Telemedicine Offers Convenient Access to Healthcare

The concerns surrounding COVID-19 have encouraged the health care industry to become even more progressive in how care is delivered. Today, more people have access to medical care from a distance through technology. Using computers, cameras, video conferencing and the internet, they are having “telehealth” or “virtual appointments” with their health care teams and, in some cases, their oncology teams.

Virtual appointments are not designed to replace in-person visits, and most physicians require an initial in-person visit before beginning telehealth appointments. They are, however, designed to provide you with a convenient alternative and may be a welcome option for people with cancer, especially those who are in remission, taking oral-based therapies or receiving maintenance therapy, or who have already had their initial consultation and may not need an in-person visit.

Along with being convenient, other benefits include the following:

  • Reduces travel for people who live far from the medical office
  • Helps limit potential exposure to infections in clinics and hospitals
  • Offers an easy way to report symptoms or complications between follow-up visits
  • Allows caregivers to ask questions during visits
  • Provides access to more cancer specialists
  • Makes it easier to obtain a second opinion
  • Eliminates the need to find transportation or child care
  • Enables you to stay home if you feel unwell or find it physically challenging to go to an appointment
  • Reduces disruption to your daily life

These appointments are conducted through patient portals or on another video or web conferencing platform, which is a computer interface that uses a camera, smartphone or a laptop computer. Some commonly used platforms are FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, WebEx and Skype.

Not everyone is comfortable using a virtual platform. If you have challenges or don’t have access to the necessary technology, let your doctor know. You may still have the option of meeting by phone.

Here are some ways to prepare when planning a virtual appointment.

  • Contact your insurance provider to find out if the visit will be covered. Many hospitals and cancer centers are offering telehealth, and more insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, may cover it.
  • Make a list of the topics you want to discuss.
  • Review your medications to know which ones need refills.
  • Complete any lab work ahead of time so the results are available to review during your appointment.
  • Test out your technology before beginning the appointment to make sure you can see and hear on your device. Your health care team will likely provide instructions.