How Hospitals Can Utilize Telehealth for Breast Cancer Management
Optimize your specialty lines with virtual care visits
During the heart of the pandemic, breast cancer and other high-risk patients alike were at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 by simply attending their appointments. Telehealth was introduced as a solution and helped keep the patients comfortable while preventing further infections.
In fact, in a study done in 2019, breast cancer patients were satisfied with telemedicine usability to manage their treatment during the pandemic.
For certain treatments like chemotherapy that should be administered in-person, virtual care may not make sense. However, telehealth offers patients the choice to stay in their own home for routine check-ins and lab reviews. It can also remove the need for long travel periods that are often hard on those going through breast cancer treatments.
This blog will cover how and why hospitals and health systems are utilizing virtual care services to provide better care for breast cancer patients while offering their providers more flexibility.
A recent survey showed that 90% of healthcare executives are exploring cost-saving relationships with third party vendors (since you made it this far, you're probably one of them). The push to a more value-based reimbursement model has left many hospitals reevaluating their service lines. Telehealth can be a cost effective method toward obtaining better patient outcomes and higher-quality care while maximizing on your hospital's specialty lines.
Not only can it be a cost-saving solution for the hospital, many private insurers are now covering synchronous visits and lowering the out-of-pocket cost for patients. This may help lift some of the financial burden put on patients going through breast cancer treatments and ensure the hospital and its providers are being reimbursed.
After a provider has seen their breast cancer patient in-person and performed the necessary evaluations, they can then utilize virtual means such as a phone call or video chat to serve as a check-in. These appointments can be used to answer questions the patient or their family may have and review any recent lab or scan results.
It’s also an opportunity for the provider to check in on any changes to the condition of their patient without using the resources required for an in-person visit. The provider must work with the patient to determine which appointments require an in-person visit and which work well for a virtual follow-up.
While synchronous telehealth may make more sense for a one-on-one follow-up appointment, providers can also tap into asynchronous (store-and-forward) methods of care when treating their patients. This means the provider and patient do not meet face to face. It’s instead an exchange of secured data and information between the two.
Here are a couple worth mentioning:
Remote patient monitoring device
Texting or emailing between patient and provider
Testing or scan results
Symptom questionnaire or survey
Patient report sharing
Note: Asynchronous telehealth is notorious for being limited in coverage. Take this into account when caring for your patients.
After a breast cancer surgery, such as a mastectomy or lumpectomy, has been performed and no complications arise, telehealth can be used as a great recovery tool for the patient and provider. It allows the provider/surgeon to check that all incisions are healing correctly through video or images and the patient isn’t presenting any symptoms of infection.
Additionally, it limits the amount of movement and travel the patient must endure, further aiding in the healing process.
Patients with breast cancer will often have a team of medical professionals working together to create a care plan. Telehealth makes meeting with the entire care team easier for both the providers and the patient. They can meet anywhere, anytime without the scheduling hassle needed to get everyone in one room.
New Symptom and side effect management
As breast cancer patients begin and continue treatments like chemotherapy, new symptoms and side effects will begin to present themselves. Telehealth can be used to keep track of and help manage them as they occur instead of waiting until the next appointment. Keeping the patient more comfortable throughout the process and nurturing a better patient outcome.
Often, this could mean a change in medication, multiple medications or the prescription of opioid alternatives like medical marijuana. Partnering with pharmacies or medical marijuana companies could be the solution to offloading some of the pressure on your in-house pharmacists and resources. When the partnership is organized correctly, it can even be a cost-saving solution for your patients as well.
Faster testing and lab results
The staffing shortage is being felt by hospitals and clinics all over the U.S. It’s something the healthcare industry has been dealing with since before the pandemic began. The difference between then and now is the acceptance of telehealth as a viable solution.
If your technicians and clinical scientists are struggling to keep up with demand, it may be time to consider a partnership with a diagnostic lab. Especially when working with high-risk patients like those with breast cancer, fast turnaround times for lab results are crucial. The quicker your physicians are alerted to a change in their patients' labs, the sooner they can act upon it.
There are a lot of positives to adopting telehealth services for breast cancer patients, but like any investment, there are some upfront costs to be aware of.
If you’re planning on building out your own telehealth platform, it can take some time and money to do it correctly. You first need to figure out what kind of technology you want to utilize for your virtual care. Then hire the right IT professionals and compliance experts to make sure it’s being built with your speciality lines and security in mind.
Thankfully, there are companies like OpenLoop who already have a HIPAA compliant, intuitive technology platform built with customization to your brand in mind. It even comes with a team of experts at your disposal to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Fronting the resources needed to train your clinicians on the proper use of the technology can get costly. Especially for smaller, rural hospitals who don’t have as many resources available at their disposal.
OpenLoop assists all our clients through every step of the process, from staging to launch, including training any providers and clinicians you need.
Powering Hospitals & Health Systems
It’s great that you're interested in adding virtual care options for your patients. OpenLoop, a white-labeled, full stack clinical support partner, works with hospitals and health systems like yours to grow and scale their telehealth delivery.
Our full suite of support services are designed with your brand, needs and patients top-of-mind as well as supported by a team of experts every step of the way.
Interested in what our services can offer your organization? Get in touch here!
Our full suite of Telehealth Support Services include: