New Oncology-Specific Telehealth Standards Focus on Patient Care, Research, Provider Coordination

July 29, 2021

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently published “Telehealth in Oncology: ASCO Standards and Practice Recommendations” in JCO Oncology Practice. The document provides oncology-specific standards for using telehealth to treat individuals with cancer.

The standards were developed during the COVID-19 pandemic when new rules around reimbursement for telehealth had recently been implemented in the United States. Amid the evolving health care delivery landscape, ASCO identified a need for specific standards for oncology that would fill gaps in the general telehealth guidance. The new standards focus on which patients oncology practices should see via telehealth, virtual multidisciplinary cancer conference (MCC) meetings, clinical trials via telehealth in oncology, and the role of advanced practice providers (APPs) and allied health professionals.

Prior to the pandemic, patients with cancer reported high satisfaction with telehealth, and providers cited improved documentation, better continuity of care, enhanced communication between provider and patient, greater treatment compliance, and the potential availability of data for scientific evaluation as benefits of increased patient access to telehealth. As COVID-19 infections increased, and the Public Health Emergency (PHE) was announced, the use of telehealth increased, with many oncology practices implementing it for the first time.

In July 2020, the ASCO Interim Position Statement: Telemedicine in Cancer Care recommended specific actions for applying telemedicine in cancer care. In December 2020, ASCO published Learning from the COVID-19 Experience to Achieve Affordable and Equitable Care and Clinical Research: The American Society of Clinical Oncology Road to Recovery Report, which provided recommendations on the immediate and short-term steps that could be taken to protect patients and health care staff as communities across the country begin gradually easing pandemic-related restrictions. The report identified a need for more detailed, oncology-based standards around telehealth. These standards aim to help meet that need.

Read the new standards.

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