Telehealth Flexibilities Helping People Have Uninterrupted Access to Cancer Care Should Continue After the Pandemic

May 11, 2021

The Association for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) submitted comments to a House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing titled “Charting the Path Forward for Telehealth.” The comments convey ASCO’s views on how telehealth can better serve individuals with cancer and the oncology professionals who care for them.

During the pandemic, expanded telehealth utilization has helped ensure some patients with cancer have uninterrupted access to high-quality cancer care while minimizing their potential exposure to the virus. This flexibility was made possible, in large part, by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declaration of a public health emergency (PHE), under which HHS issued a temporary waiver of strict geographic and originating site restrictions, allowing patients and providers around the country to utilize telehealth as an effective care delivery tool, regardless of where the patient lived or where they participated in their telehealth visit.

ASCO’s comments outline the following:

  • The Association strongly supports permanently removing geographic and originating site restrictions on telehealth in the U.S. and urges Congress to support the Telehealth Modernization Act (H.R. 1332). If passed, H.R. 1332 would help ensure such restrictions are no longer in place when the PHE ends.
  • Reliable broadband connections are still needed in many areas of the United States to truly make telemedicine accessible to all. Until universal broadband access becomes a reality, other solutions must be considered to ensure all patients have equitable access to care. For example, patients who lack computer skills or are unable to access Wi-Fi could potentially benefit from audio-only services. ASCO therefore urges Congress work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to permanently ensure appropriate coverage and reimbursement for audio-only services.
  • The expanded use of telehealth has helped providers reach historically underserved populations, including rural populations, and those that might find needing time off from work, childcare, and transportation to an in-person visit prohibitive. Telehealth has been shown to increase a patient’s adherence to medication schedules, support better continuity of care, enhance communication between providers and patients, result in greater treatment compliance, and create potential availability of data for scientific evaluation.

Read the full comment letter.

ASCO will continue to weigh in on the future of telehealth in the U.S.

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