Researchers are beginning to delve more deeply into patient experience and outcomes with virtual visits during the pandemic. A study at Florida-based Moffit Cancer Center found that oncology patients reported consistently better experience-of-care scores with telemedicine compared with in-person visits, both in terms of access and care provider concern.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, sought to assess the experience with telemedicine and in-person visits among almost 6,000 individuals with cancer using Press Ganey outpatient and telemedicine surveys of patients seen at MCC, an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, from April 2020 to June 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research reports on the experience of patients in the Department of Virtual Health, which was established within MCC early in the pandemic in response to cancer center restrictions. The researchers noted that there has previously been limited study of the experiences with teleoncology among patients with cancer, given that telemedicine uptake has historically been limited. Prior studies focusing on oncology have been snapshots of patient experience of care (PEC) early in the pandemic. The researchers said that information from the study may inform future interventions aimed at improving teleoncology delivery.
The researchers note that in their study cohort, patients in the telemedicine group reported higher PEC scores when asked about access compared with the in-person group. “Appropriate triaging, the ability of family members to join the appointment, provision of interpreter services, and clinician and patient support for telemedicine may have contributed to patients in the telemedicine group reporting higher scores when asked about care provider concern compared with the in-person group,” they wrote.
Rather than using an on-demand telemedicine model in which patients log in to a portal and request a consultation when needed, at MCC, providers determined the appropriateness of telemedicine consultation and scheduled the appointments virtually. This allowed patients to be triaged, as providers could deliver an appropriate level of care and reduce the number of in-person visits required after a telemedicine appointment.
For clinicians, educational materials were developed to support technological assistance, equipment, and template modifications to facilitate clinician–patient interactions. These factors were shown to be important contributors to motivating clinicians to adopt telemedicine and improving clinician satisfaction, the researchers noted.