Telemedicine (TM) recently became necessary when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of most brick-and-mortar operations. Since the first wave, remote communications have become the substitute for face-to-face visits, with TM vital in modern healthcare delivery. Here’s an overview of the future of telehealth for hematology and oncology care.
Telemedicine Virtual Visit Compensation
Lack of proper compensation has been the leading barrier to the widespread implementation of telemedicine. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mandated financial parity of virtual and face-to-face visits, an excellent incentive for oncologists and hematologists to invest in telehealth services for their patients. With the barrier gone, Telemedicine is set to become the mainstream option for doctor-patient visits.
Demand for Hematology-Oncology Services
The number of diagnosed cancer cases has been increasing but so has the number of cancer survivors. ASCO projects a 40% increase in demand for cancer care services by 2026. Unfortunately, statistics indicate fewer oncologists each year, meaning the increased demand is poised to coincide with a shortage. As ASCO projects, there’ll be a shortage of at least 2,200 oncologists by 2026.
TM offers a feasible solution for optimizing oncology care, as it eliminates the need for face-to-face visits. Doctors can schedule more flexible and manageable appointments remotely via phone calls and internet technologies like web conferencing. As it stands, the increased demand for cancer care and shortage of practitioners will work in favor of telemedicine.
A Virtual Future for Oncologists/Hematologists
Oncology and hematology centers are located close to state lines, which has been great for the implementation of telehealth. TM video and telephone visits are already taking place in many areas, and its future in oncology and hematology care is almost inevitable, given the growing focus on convenience.
Telemedicine saves patients the burden of commuting to brick-and-mortar offices and centers. It also makes it easier to receive alternative opinions without leaving home. All current developments point to future hematology and oncology care heavily reliant on telemedicine. However, some oncologists say it’s still too early to project the role of telehealth.