Communication Technology Improves Treatment Burden, Patient Perspective of Oncology Care

The effect of telehealth on the patient experience is not yet fully understood.
The effect of telehealth on the patient experience is not yet fully understood.

Telehealth, the use of technology to exchange data and communicate between patients and health care providers, minimizes treatment burden, facilitates personal care, and provides reassurance to cancer survivors.1

With the survival rates of cancer increasing there has been a push to give patients more control over their health care and foster their transition back into the community. Telehealth is at the core of this evolving method of care. However, telehealth is often complex and the patient experience with this method of health care delivery has not been fully assessed.

In a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, investigators assessed the experience of adult cancer survivors with telehealth interventions. Using qualitative research methods the authors assessed 22 studies published between 2006 and 2016 that characterized the experience of adult cancer survivors aged 18 years or older who participated in telehealth interventions. 

The authors uncovered 3 analytical themes, each with 3 descriptive subthemes: the impact of telehealth interventions to disrupt the lives of cancer survivors (considering convenience, independence, and burden); the feeling of personalized care despite physical distance (considering time, space, and the human factor); and the feeling of remote reassurance (considering active connection, passive connection, and slipping through the net).

From these 3 themes the researchers concluded that telehealth interventions minimize treatment burden and disruption to cancer survivor lives by providing a convenient alternative approach to health care. It also provides a sense of personalized care and offers reassurance. However, the researchers cautioned that, “it is important to consider individual factors when tailoring interventions to ensure engagement promotes benefit rather than burden.”

Reference

1. Cox A, Lucas G, Marcu A, et al. Cancer survivors' experience with telehealth: a systematic review and thematic synthesis. J Med Internet Res. 2017 Jan. 9. doi: 10.2196/jmir.6575 [Epub ahead of print]

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