What is telehealth for oncology?

Tele-oncology is the use of telehealth for cancer care. Tele-oncology uses communication technology to let a patient consult with an Intermountain Cancer Center provider from a distance.

Using telehealth technology, including high-definition cameras, monitors, and audio equipment, clinicians and patients in rural areas can connect with oncology at an Intermountain Cancer Center.

Although the idea of the cameras and audio technology might sound simple, the education and training around telehealth programs allow trained staff and specialists on both ends of the camera to provide seamless, superior care.

These specialists provide real-time evaluation of patients, consult on treatments and follow-up options, and coach bedside clinicians through specialized procedures for a variety of oncology patient needs. In many cases, telehealth for oncology allows patients to stay closer to home and family, avoiding unnecessary travel.

How does telehealth for cancer work?

Regular telehealth can be used for a virtual doctor’s visit when you’re at home. However, most tele-oncology visits are used when you’re at a healthcare facility and need to meet with a provider or specialist who is at another location. (This is especially helpful for patients in rural locations.)

Telehealth vs Telemedicine

Usually, the term “telemedicine” is used when the appointment is focused on medical care (often provided by a doctor or nurse practitioner).

“Telehealth” is used when the appointment offers more than just medical services, often from a wider range of providers. These services can include:

Teaching sessions for patients and caregivers about a new medicine

Nutrition counseling for eating or weight problems

Mental health counseling for anxiety, depression, or other problems

Offering help and tips for staying healthy and well

Who can get it?

In the past, telemedicine was mostly used for patients who lived in rural areas and would have to travel a long distance for a medical appointment.

Now, telehealth for oncology is used more and more for patients who live anywhere. It’s often more convenient and saves travel time. It can also reduce the amount of time you need to take off from work—and the time you may otherwise spend in a waiting room.

However, telemedicine may not be appropriate in some circumstances. For instance, patients can’t undergo procedures or receive imaging tests remotely. Talk to your cancer care team to find out if any part of your treatment plan may include the option for telehealth.

TeleHealth for Cancer Services

While some parts of cancer treatment must be done in person, telehealth for oncology services can be used for many things. Talk to your cancer care team to find out if any part of your treatment plan may include the option for telehealth for oncology.

You can have a referral appointment or consultation with a specialist.

You can learn and talk about treatment options.

You can ask for a new prescription or have current prescriptions refilled.

You can have certain problems monitored without having to travel great distances for a face-to-face visit.

Your doctor can monitor any side effects from cancer treatment.

What to Expect

While regular telehealth visits can be conducted on a laptop computer, tablet, or smart phone from your home, tele-oncology allows collaboration with a local clinic provider at a designated site. It is similar to a visit at your local clinic with familiar faces nearby yet adds the expertise of a specialist who may be in larger metropolitan area on a big screen.

Once you are connected, the onsite provider will interact with you and your cancer center expert on the screen. The visit is just like any other medical visit: You can ask questions, take notes, and talk about any concerns you have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are telehealth for oncology visits expensive?

Telehealth coverage and costs vary widely. Check with your insurance company to see if and what telehealth services are covered and what your out-of-pocket costs might be.