The Rise of Virtual Care in Hematology and Oncology: A Comprehensive Review

By Danélia Botes

September 11, 2023

The demand for continuous home and institutional care is escalating due to the ageing population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases. This demand is further amplified by the current context of limited professional resources. The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked the deployment of virtual care tools, ensuring access to care and services while promoting continuity of care.

Virtual care modalities have been integrated into care pathways and are increasingly used in the evaluation, treatment, and follow-up of patients in specialty medicine, including haematology and oncology. These modalities have the potential to improve access to health care for most patients and foster their engagement in managing their illness.

A scoping review of scientific and grey literature conducted over the past five years by  the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) has shed light on the care pathways that can be supported or optimised with the use of virtual care. Teleconsultation and tele-education have emerged as the most studied interventions in the care pathways of haematology and oncology.

The Potential and Concerns of Virtual Care in Oncology and Hematology

Despite the promising results, the number of studies exploring the efficacy of virtual care interventions in individuals with malignant or non-malignant homoeopathy remains limited. Similarly, few studies have investigated the impact of virtual care interventions according to the type of cancer, the disease stage, or the treatment protocol.

Virtual care modalities reported as having a positive impact include telemedicine, telehealth, e-health/mobile health, teleconsultation, tele intervention, and tele-education. Individuals with cancer or a hematologic disease, or cancer survivors, use these tools alone or in combination with other modalities to improve their quality of life and reduce their disease- and treatment-related symptoms.

Despite the potential benefits, some patients and health professionals have expressed concerns about the use of virtual care. These include worries about the ability to use new technology, problems with the technology, feeling distant and insecure, the lack of face-to-face contact and communication with health professionals, and the failure to recognize their signs of distress.

While the use of virtual care in haematology and oncology shows promise, more high-quality studies are necessary to fully understand its potential and address any concerns. As we continue to navigate the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of virtual care in specialty medicine is likely to become increasingly important.

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