Telehealth Offers Timely, Safe Care For Cardio-Oncology Patients During Pandemic

As the use of telehealth has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, "unique advantages" of telehealth approaches for cardio-oncology patients have emerged, according to a Viewpoint published April 22 in JACC: CardioOncology.

Amar Parikh, MD, et al., discuss their experience in implementing telehealth visits in a cardio-oncology practice and the benefits and limitations of telehealth for the cardio-oncology patient population. According to the authors, it is critical to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure in cardio-oncology patients, but many routine appointments "cannot safely be deferred."

Beginning March 23, Parikh, et al., offered telehealth for cardio-oncology patients. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic saw 30 to 40 patients per week. In the first 2.5 weeks of the telehealth program, the clinic saw 11 patients, five of whom were new patients. Of the 11 patients, four proceeded with planned cancer treatment and seven had no significant changes in management after the telehealth appointment. Patients requiring acute care were referred to the emergency department. If the clinician determined an in-person visit was necessary, it was scheduled as soon as possible, with social distancing practices and appropriate personal protective equipment. This approach enables patients to receive timely care and minimize exposure to the virus, the authors write, noting that similar practices "can be safely and effectively implemented more widely across health care systems."

Clinical encounters with cardio-oncology patients can be "emotionally charged," and telehealth approaches may "depersonalize the bond between patient and cardio-oncologist," the authors write. A "thoughtful 'webside' manner" can help the clinician convey empathy and compassion and "cultivate patient trust," they note.

Telehealth approaches likely will continue to evolve after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the authors. The cardio-oncology community should "remain attentive" and "become more facile with its use to extend our clinical reach and take better care of our patients," they write. Telehealth is a "durable method of delivering high-quality, longitudinal, accessible care to our cardio-oncology patients both during the pandemic – and beyond," they conclude.

Clinical Topics: COVID-19 Hub

Keywords: Coronavirus, COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, Telemedicine, Delivery of Health Care, Emergency Service, Hospital

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