One of the most pressing challenges brought on by the coronavirus crisis is its serious impact on the delivery of health services.
The burden is particularly heavy among patients in need of urgent and continuous treatment such as those living with cancer. As countries are prompted to place populations in quarantine and limit movement and gatherings to reduce the spread of infection, a workaround that continues to gain acceptance is telemedicine, wherein screening or consultation between a doctor and a patient is conducted via video or phone conferencing instead of in-person appointments.
In the Philippines, telehealth opens up a horizon of hope in cancer management given that patients who are immunosuppressed or with underlying conditions are in greater danger of developing more serious complications from Covid-19, including more frequent pneumonias and multiple organ failure. telemedicine, cancer patients can “communicate their concerns to their doctors without unnecessarily exposing themselves to the risks of getting infected,” says Amiel Herrera, CEO of a full-suite telehealth and clinical informatics company in the National Capital Region.
Cancer patients can be classified into three types: patients in the follow-up stage or taking orally administered medications; the recently diagnosed undergoing curative therapy; and those with advanced cancer receiving palliative care. It is the oncologist who will assess and recommend if and when a patient may switch to telemedicine.
Without requiring any special equipment or setup other than a computer or a smartphone via an appropriate platform, online consultations empower oncologists to perform routine follow-ups, discuss test results and patients’ response to therapy, as well as offer payment options.
Cancer patients can easily contact physicians for electronic prescriptions or to talk about new symptoms, apprehensions or questions without having to travel and endure the long wait at the clinic as well as potential exposure to coronavirus.
“Doctors have adapted to the technology by studying more about the basics and ethics of telemedicine, as well as building their social identities for the purpose of having a virtual clinic and conducting telemedicine.
They have created Facebook accounts and pages to serve like their clinics, used hospital-suggested telemedicine providers, or other EMR solutions that have telemedicine features,” he added.