In today's budget-conscious environment, the long-term existence of every medical practice is rooted in its cost-effectiveness. Even though teleoncology practices serve an important role in delivering care to an underserved population, these specialty practices are not exempt from hard financial scrutiny. To that end, several cost-analysis studies have demonstrated that the costs of providing cancer care via telemedicine are comparable with costs of delivering traditional oncology care. Teleoncology has additional cost-related benefits, too, such as providing education to nurses in the rural sector, and assisting health-care providers in enrolling rural patients in cancer clinical trials.
Communication between physicians and patients is fundamental to the delivery of high-quality, compassionate cancer care. It might seem odd to connect compassion with the hard circuitry of novel technology. But to cancer patients in remote communities like Hays, Kansas, the technology that connects them with an oncology team is synonymous with compassionate care.
The science of oncology is rapidly evolving. So, too, are our electronic medical capabilities. The oncology community would be wise to pay attention to success stories like that of KUMC's teleoncology program. Telemedicine has exponential benefits that can be realized not only in rural areas, but in other underserved populations as well.
Electronic medical technology, and teleoncology in particular, is one more ally in the battle to ensure that all Americans have access to high-quality cancer care. Any perceived barriers to its implementation, such as initial cost outlay or practice management disruption, pale in comparison to its benefits. Just ask the doctors and their cancer patients in Hays, Kansas.
Senior Editor, ONCOLOGY