“What is going to happen to my cancer treatment after the lockdown is announced?“ - wondered Rameshkumar (name changed). “ How will I connect to my oncologist for further treatment? Although the hospital is open but should I go there? What if I catch the infection? Being a cancer patient my risk of complications will be quite on higher side !! “
Telemedicine is the answer to a lot of problems cancer patients face even after the lockdown would be over. With the government giving a clear guidance and gazette notification; it has opened ample opportunities for cancer patients to make their treatment and follow ups easy. It has come as boon and seems to be proved as the need of the hour in the wake of lockdown to cancer patients during these difficult times providing care in safety of their home.
Cancer treatments usually are of long duration, require frequent hospital visits and disrupt other aspects of life of patients and caregivers. Long waiting for consultations, discussions for decision making, multiple investigations all can be made easy for the patients with the telemedicine. Aspects of cancer care like follow ups, supportive care consultation, triaging post chemotherapy visits, post-operative and post radiation consultations can be done remotely with patients sitting at home conveniently. It also ensures continuity of care as many patients get lost to follow up before completing five years of minimum follow-up.
In country like India where cancer patients travel far off for the tertiary care and seek second opinions to have confidence in their treatment plans, telemedicine reduces their agony ensuring treatment option close to their roots and family support. Added with home visits for samples and online pharmacy options, patient’s visit to the hospital are reduced for imaging and treatment interventions. However, as cancer treatment requires multiple specialists and is best delivered in institutional setups worldwide, telemedicine should be hospital centric and hospital driven hybrid model to maintain quality and comprehensiveness of treatment to ensure better outcomes.
As Rameshkumar tried telemedicine options provided by hospital during lockdown, he questioned why these were not available before. As a matter of fact, telemedicine has been there for 20 years and one fine day people rediscovered it with a “eureka” response. Was it a mental block on part of patients and doctors? As he completed his first follow up with his doctor on teleconsultation sitting in another city, he look forward to share his experiences on social media for the benefit to many.Benefits of Telemedicine: (in different colour block)
- Dr. Sandeep Jain
Senior Consultant Radiation Oncologist