Thinking beyond telemedicine in your COVID-19 response

by | Jun 30, 2020 | Remote Monitoring, Symptom Management

Major changes to the delivery of cancer care

If you are involved in healthcare, you know too well how the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a major change in the way care is delivered – and especially for cancer care providers who treat some of the most vulnerable patients.

Cancer programs quickly responded to the crisis through things like rapid implementation of telehealth to replace in office visits, adding drive through appointments for things like blood draws, and creating remote teams to ensure there were healthy providers in the event that someone on the care team contracts the virus. These and so many other adjustments have changed what many see as the future of cancer care. Leaders have predicted that the need to depend on technology to deliver safe, effective care will only become more essential moving forward.

As telemedicine use skyrocketed, many care teams were surprised at a) how quickly they were able to implement telemedicine and b) how easily patients, even those who are not technologically savvy, adapted and providers responded positively.

Building on telehealth with symptom management

85% of respondents to a 2019 Advisory Board survey ranked “improving symptom management to reduce avoidable ED visits and hospitalizations,” as a top opportunities for cost savings.

So what other ways can you leverage technology to improve the lives of cancer patients? We think a big one is symptom management. Advisory Board recently shared what cancer programs are viewing as the top opportunities for growth and symptom management was right behind telehealth. They also reported that 85% of respondents to a 2019 survey ranked “improving symptom management to reduce avoidable ED visits and hospitalizations,” in the top five opportunities for cost savings.

And patients want it too. In another Advisory Board survey, patients listed “specialized symptom management” as the service that is most valuable to them.

How does technology connect to symptom management?

Offering electronic patient-reported outcomes programs to automatically prompt patients to report symptoms, leveraging technology to stratify ePROs by severity and urgency, utilizing standardized triage pathways, and closing the loop with personalized information and instructions delivered directly to the patient following a triage incident enables care teams to scale proactive symptom management for all their patients. Technology can automate and standardize appropriate tasks so that the care team can focus on patient care.

Analysis of our own 2020 data confirms the potential for savings and reinforces what a Journal of Oncology Practice study found – proactive, standardized symptom management reduces emergency department visits and hospitalizations. From January to May of this year, triage nurses estimated that the interventions they provided to patients managing symptoms prevented 7,400 urgent care visits – that’s an 8.3% reduction in ED visits. They also resolved 6,242 symptom-related incidents by bringing the patient in for a same day appointment.

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